Al Qaeda attacks planner killed in Pakistan army raid
ISLAMABAD // Pakistani soldiers have killed a top Al Qaeda operative who was indicted in the United States for his alleged involvement in a plot to bomb New York’s subway system.
The death of Adnan Shukrijumah is the latest blow to the terror organisation still reeling from the 2011 killing of leader Osama bin Laden and now largely eclipsed by the militant group ISIL.
As Al Qaeda’s head of external operations, Shukrijumah, 39, occupied a position once held by the September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Pakistan’s military said Shukrijumah was killed early on Saturday along with two other suspected militants in Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal area, part of the mountainous territory bordering Afghanistan that is home to various militant groups fighting in both countries.
The military said he was hiding in a compound when he was killed but gave few other details about the raid. One Pakistani soldier was killed and another seriously wounded during the assault.
An army spokesman said five “terrorists” also were detained in the raid.
The FBI lists Shukrijumah, a Saudi national, as a “most wanted” terrorist and the US State Department had offered up to a US$5 million (Dh18.4m) reward for his capture.
Prosecutors in the US allege Shukrijumah recruited three men in 2008 to receive training in Pakistan for the subway attack. The three travelled to Pakistan to avenge the US invasion of Afghanistan but were persuaded by Al Qaeda operatives to return to the United States for a suicide-bombing mission against a major target such as the New York Stock Exchange, Times Square or Grand Central Terminal.
Eventually, the men settled on a plot to blow themselves up at rush hour, according to testimony in federal court. The US attorney general Eric Holder called the plot one of the most dangerous since 9/11.
After the September 11 terror attacks, Shukrijumah was seen as one of Al Qaeda’s best chances to attack inside the US or Europe, captured terrorist Abu Zubaydah told US authorities. He studied at a community college in Florida but when the FBI showed up to arrest him as a material witness to a terrorism case in 2003, he had already left the country.
In 2004, the then attorney general John Ashcroft called Shukrijumah a “clear and present danger” to the United States.
The Pakistani military said Shukrijumah had recently moved to South Waziristan to avoid a military operation the Pakistanis launched in June in the North Waziristan tribal area.
* Associated Press
Published: December 6, 2014 04:00 AM