India-born AQIS chief Asim Umar killed in Afghanistan
A US treasury statement on Asim Umar’s designation as a “specially designated global terrorist” in June 2016 gave his place of birth as Sambhal and said he was born between 1974 and 1976.Updated: Oct 08, 2019 20:21 IST
Asim Umar, the India-born terrorist who led al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) since its creation in 2014, was killed in a joint US-Afghan raid on a Taliban compound last month, Afghanistan’s spy agency announced on Tuesday.
Umar was born Shaan-ul-Haq at Sambhal, Uttar Pradesh, and went to Pakistan in 1995 and joined the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Indian security officials said. A US treasury statement on Umar’s designation as a “specially designated global terrorist” in June 2016 gave his place of birth as Sambhal and said he was born between 1974 and 1976.
The National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan spy agency, tweeted: “#NDS can now confirm the death of Asim Omar, leader of #Al Qaeda in the #Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), in a joint US-Afghan raid on a Taliban compound in Musa Qala district of Helmand province on Sep 23.”
The NDS said Umar was killed with six other AQIS members, most of them Pakistanis. Among the dead was “Raihan, Omar’s courier to Ayman al-Zawahiri”, the head of al-Qaeda, it added.
The NDS’ tweets described Umar as “a Pakistani citizen”, though people in Kabul familiar with developments said this could be because the slain terrorist was found with a Pakistani identity card.
The NDS said the slain AQIS members were “embedded inside the Taliban compound in the Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala”.
US and Afghan forces conducted an extensive overnight operation in Helmand on September 22-23 and initial reports suggested that Umar escaped. There were also reports that some 40 civilians were killed in an air strike during the operation.
Umar’s death in a Taliban base raises questions about the militant group’s pledges during talks with the US about breaking ties with al-Qaeda. One of the key conditions in the talks, which broke down last month, was that the Taliban would not allow al-Qaeda and other terror groups to operate from Afghan soil.
“The AQIS chief’s presence in a Taliban compound suggests the Taliban have no intention of cutting their ties with al-Qaeda,” said an Indian security official who asked not to be named.
In June 2016, the US state department announced the designation of both Umar and AQIS as terrorists. Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the formation of AQIS in a video in September 2014. AQIS subsequently claimed responsibility for the September 6, 2014 attack on a naval dockyard in Karachi, during which terrorists tried to hijack a Pakistan Navy frigate.
AQIS also claimed responsibility for the murder of activists and writers in Bangladesh, including US citizen Avijit Roy and US embassy employee Xulhaz Mannan.
While in Pakistan, Umar studied at Karachi’s notorious Jamia Uloomul Islamia madrassa, which has produced several terrorist commanders, and at Darul Uloom Haqqani in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, another madrassa with close links to the Taliban. Umar came in contact with Osama bin Laden, the slain al-Qaeda chief, while training in Afghanistan.
He also played a key role in al-Qaeda’s online propaganda operations and was believed to have close ties with Indian Mujahideen and Ansar-ut-Tawhid fi Bilad al-Hind.