PAKISTANI soldiers killed a top al-Qaeda operative yesterday who was indicted in the US for his alleged involvement in a plot to bomb trains in London and New York.
The death of Adnan Shukrijumah is the latest blow to the terror organisation, which is still reeling from the 2011 killing of leader Osama bin Laden and is now largely eclipsed by the militant Islamic State group. It also marks a major achievement for the Pakistani military, which mounted a widespread military operation in the north-west this summer.
The military announced Shukrijumah’s death in a statement, saying that he was killed along with two other suspected militants in Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal area early yesterday. South Waziristan is part of the mountainous territory bordering Afghanistan that is home to various militant groups fighting both in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“The al-Qaeda leader, who was killed by the Pakistan army in a successful operation, is the same person who had been indicted in the United Stated,” said a senior Pakistani army officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to journalists.
As al-Qaeda’s head of external operations, the 39-year-old Shukrijumah occupied a position once held by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The FBI lists Shukrijumah, a Saudi national, as a “most wanted” terrorist and the US State Department had offered up to a $5 million reward for his capture.
Federal prosecutors in the US allege that Shukrijumah had recruited three men in 2008 to receive training in the lawless tribal region of Pakistan to stage an attack on the New York subway system.
He is also suspected of having played a role in plotting al-Qaeda attacks in Panama, Norway and the UK.
After the 9/11 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. Shukrijumah studied computer science and chemistry at a community college in Florida and is thought to be the only al-Qaeda leader to have once held a US green card. He lived in Miramar, Florida, with his mother and five siblings.
At some point in the late 1990s, the FBI says Shukrijumah became convinced that he must participate in “jihad,” or holy war, to fight perceived persecution against Muslims in places like Chechnya and Bosnia. He eventually went to a training camp in Afghanistan, where he studied the use of weapons, explosives and battle tactics.
When the FBI showed up to arrest him as a material witness to a terrorism case in 2003, he had already left the country.
Shukrijumah’s death is a significant success for Pakistan’s military, Pakistani security analyst Zahid Hussain said. “They seem to have developed a strong intelligence networks in the tribal areas,” he added.