Al-Qaeda leader killed in joint US-Afghan raid in Afghanistan (officials)

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) —  Al Qaeda’s leader in the Indian peninsula was killed in a joint US-Afghan raid last month, Afghan officials confirmed Tuesday.

Asim Omar, who has led al-Qaeda in the Indian Peninsula since its founding in 2014, was killed in a September 23 raid on a Taliban compound in Musa Qala district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province.

The National Directorate of Security in Afghanistan said Omar was a Pakistani national while some reports said he was born in India.

Omar was “killed along with six other AQAP, most of them Pakistanis,” in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, the security directorate said in a tweet, adding that Omar was “associated” with the Taliban.

The raid was part of an operation on the night of 22-23 September during which the United States secured air support.

Authorities said they would investigate reports that 40 civilians, including children, were killed in an air strike during the operation.

The security directorate said that among the six al-Qaeda members killed in the raid was a man named “Rihan” whose mission is to communicate with al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

US forces in Afghanistan declined to comment.

Under a delayed withdrawal plan between the United States and the Taliban, Washington agreed to withdraw troops from Afghanistan on condition that the insurgency adheres to security guarantees and cut all links to jihadist organizations.

A year ago, the United States and the Taliban began negotiations to reach an agreement to reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan that would pave the way for a decline in violence.

But US President Donald Trump announced a halt to the talks last month, citing Taliban violence.

Even if a deal is struck, observers question whether the Taliban will truly separate from al Qaeda.

The United States invaded Afghanistan after the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Omar was not very well known when he was named leader of al Qaeda in the Indian Peninsula in 2014.

The jihadist branch was set up to motivate fighters in India, Bangladesh and Burma.

A source in the Afghan Taliban announced in 2014 that Omar worked with the Punjabi Taliban, the faction of the Pakistani Taliban in the most crowded provinces, for a few years before joining al Qaeda.

Omar, a pseudonym, was appointed by Zawahiri in a video recording.

A Pakistani intelligence official said Omar had gone to Syria, but the information could not be confirmed.

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