Afghanistan’s intelligence agency says a September joint Afghan-U.S. raid in Musa Qala district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, bagged a major al-Qaida leader.
The National Directorate of Security — the main intelligence arm of Afghanistan — tweeted Tuesday that a joint U.S.-Afghan raid on Sept. 23 killed Asim Omar, the leader of al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS.
A U.S. official confirmed to Military Times the death of the al-Qaida leader, but provided no other details regarding the operation.
The NDS said it killed six other AQIS members, including the courier for core al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Zawahiri has led al-Qaida since Osama Bin Laden was killed in a U.S. special operations raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011.
The NDS said Omar was a Pakistani citizen.
After 18 years of war in Afghanistan, the country is still a safe haven for al-Qaida and some of its offshoots.
“Al-Qaida continues to see Afghanistan as a safe haven for its leadership, based on its long-standing strong relationship with the Taliban,” a recent UN report reads.
Citing Afghan officials, the UN report said, that there are roughly 240 al-Qaida militants operating in Afghanistan, with most of the terrorists located in Badakhshan, Kunar and Zabul provinces.
“Al-Qaida cadre leaders and mentors are also frequently reported to be active in Helmand and Kandahar,” the UN report reads.
The Taliban said they would agree to cut ties with al-Qaida during peace negotiations with the U.S.
President Donald Trump ended those negotiations in September following the death of a U.S. service member in an attack in Kabul.
“The Taliban continue to be the primary partner for all foreign terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan, with the exception of ISIL,” the UN report reads.
A 2019 DoD report echoed the sentiments of the UN findings stating that al-Qaida and AQIS “routinely support, train, work, and operate with Taliban fighters and commanders.”
Though the DoD report noted that many of the core al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan are "largely on survival, and have ceding to the regional AQIS group.
The report explained that sustained Afghan and coalition efforts in Afghanistan have reduced AQIS’ ability to conduct operations in Afghanistan.
The Associated Press reported that anti-Taliban raids and U.S. airstrikes in Helmand on the night of Sept. 22 reportedly killed 40 civilians at a wedding party.
Those raids appear to be the same that killed the AQIS leader, though the NDS says he died in a Sept. 23 raid.
AP said the civilian deaths occurred during the second of two raids around Musa Qala. The Afghan Ministry of Defense said it arrested 14 and killed 22 foreign members of the Taliban during the raids, according to a news release.
A warehouse full of supplies for the terror group was also demolished in the raid, the Afghan MoD announced.