U.S. Strike Killed al Qaeda Bomb Maker and Two Leaders
ABC News is reporting that the controversial Damodola strike, which was initially reported to have killed Al Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri, apparently disrupted a major al Qaeda summit and killed their chief weapons expert and two major commanders
ABC News has learned that Pakistani officials now believe that al Qaeda’s master bomb maker and chemical weapons expert was one of the men killed in last week’s U.S. missile attack in eastern Pakistan. Midhat Mursi, 52, also known as Abu Khabab al-Masri, was identified by Pakistani authorities as one of four known major al Qaeda leaders present at an apparent terror summit in the village of Damadola early last Friday morning.
The United States had posted a $5 million reward for Mursi’s capture. He is described by authorities as the man who ran al Qaeda’s infamous Derunta training camp in Afghanistan, where he used dogs and other animals as subjects for experiments with poison and chemicals. His explosives training manual is still regarded as the bible for al Qaeda terrorists around the world. “He wants to cause mayhem, major death, and he puts his expertise on the line. So the fact that we took him out is significant,” said former FBI agent Jack Cloonan, an ABC News consultant, who was the senior agent on the FBI’s al Qaeda squad. “He’s the man who trained the shoe bomber Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui, as well as hundreds of others.”
Pakistani officials also said that Khalid Habib, the al Qaeda operations chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan, and Abdul Rehman al Magrabi, a senior operations commander for al Qaeda, were killed in the Damadola attack. Authorities tell ABC News that the terror summit was called to funnel new money into attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. “Pakistani intelligence says this was a very important planning session involving the very top levels of al Qaeda as they get ready for a new spring offensive,” explained Alexis Debat, a former official in the French Defense Ministry and now an ABC News consultant.
A nice consolation prize, anyway. Indeed, Andrew Cochran writes, “If true, this is almost as good as killing al-Zawahri.”
Bill Roggio adds, It is clear the reports from earlier in the week that al-Qaeda is refocusing efforts in Afghanistan are accurate. “With the recent capture or killing of several high-level al-Qaeda leaders, including Abu Hamza Rabia and Abu Musab al-Suri before last weekÃ¢€™s strike, it is clear U.S. and Pakistani intelligence is gaining a clearing picture of al-QaedaÃ¢€™s network and operations in along the Afghan-Pakistani border.” Let us hope.