WASHINGTON (AP) - Al-Qaida announced Monday that its No. 3
official, Mustafa al-Yazid, had been killed along with members of
his family - perhaps one of the most severe blows to the terror
movement since the U.S. campaign against al-Qaida began. A U.S.
official said al-Yazid was believed to have died in a U.S. missile
A statement posted on an al-Qaida Website said al-Yazid, which
it described as the organization's top commander in Afghanistan,
was killed along with his wife, three daughters, a grandchild and
other men, women and children but did not say how or where.
The statement did not give an exact date for al-Yazid's death,
but it was dated by the Islamic calendar month of "Jemadi
al-Akhar," which falls in May.
A U.S. official in Washington said word was "spreading in
extremist circles" of his death in Pakistan's tribal areas in the
past two weeks.
His death would be a major blow to al-Qaida, which in December
"lost both its internal and external operations chiefs," the
official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity
of the information.
The Egyptian-born al-Yazid, also known as Sheik Saeed al-Masri,
was a founding member of al-Qaida and the group's prime conduit to
Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri. He was key to day-to-day
control, with a hand in everything from finances to operational
planning, the U.S. official said.
Al-Yazid has been reported killed before, in 2008, but this is
the first time his death has been acknowledged by the militant
group on the Internet.
Al-Yazid has been one of many targets in a U.S. Predator drone
campaign aimed at militants in Pakistan since President Barack
Obama took office. Al-Yazid made no secret of his contempt for the
United States, once calling it "the evil empire leading crusades
against the Muslims."
"We have reached the point where we see no difference between
the state and the American people," al-Yazid told Pakistan's Geo
TV in a June 2008 interview. "The United States is a non-Muslim
state bent on the destruction of Muslims."
The shadowy, 55-year-old al-Yazid has been involved with Islamic
extremist movements for nearly 30 years since he joined radical
student groups led by fellow Egyptian al-Zawahri, now the No. 2
figure in al-Qaida after bin Laden.
In the early 1980s, al-Yazid served three years in an Egyptian
prison for purported links to the group responsible for the 1981
assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. After his release,
al-Yazid turned up in Afghanistan, where, according to al-Qaida's
propaganda wing Al-Sabah, he became a founding member of the
He later followed bin Laden to Sudan and back to Afghanistan,
where he served as al-Qaida's chief financial officer, managing
secret bank accounts in the Persian Gulf that were used to help
finance the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
After the U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001, al-Yazid
went into hiding for years. He surfaced in May 2007 during a
45-minute interview posted on the Web by Al-Sabah, in which he was
introduced as the "official in charge" of the terrorist
movement's operations in Afghanistan.
Some security analysts believe the choice of al-Yazid as the
Afghan chief may have signaled a new approach for al-Qaida in the
country where it once reigned supreme.
Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA unit that tracked bin
Laden, believes bin Laden and al-Zawahri wanted a trusted figure to
handle Afghanistan "while they turn to other aspects of the jihad
outside" the country.
Al-Yazid had little background in leading combat operations. But
terrorism experts say his advantage was that he was close to
Taliban leader Mullah Omar. As a fluent Pashto speaker known for
impeccable manners, al-Yazid enjoyed better relations with the
Afghans than many of the al-Qaida Arabs, whom the Afghans found
arrogant and abrasive.
That suggested a conscious decision by al-Qaida to embed within
the Taliban organization, helping the Afghan allies with expertise
and training while at the same time putting an Afghan face on the
Al-Yazid himself alluded to such an approach in an interview
this year with Al-Jazeera television's Islamabad correspondent
Ahmad Zaidan. Al-Yazid said al-Qaida fighters were involved at
every level with the Taliban.
"We participate with our brothers in the Islamic Emirate in all
fields," al-Yazid said. "This had a big positive effect on the
(Taliban) self-esteem in Afghanistan."
A September 2007 al-Qaida video sought to promote the notion of
close Taliban-al-Qaida ties at a time when the Afghan insurgents
were launching their comeback six years after their ouster from
power in Kabul.
The video showed al-Yazid sitting with a senior Taliban
commander in a field surrounded by trees as a jihad anthem played.
The Taliban commander vowed to "target the infidels in Afghanistan
and outside Afghanistan" and to "focus our attacks, Allah
willing, on the coalition forces in Afghanistan."
There is also evidence that al-Yazid has promoted ties with
Islamic extremist groups in Central Asia and Pakistan, where other
top al-Qaida figures are believed to be hiding.
"He definitely seems to have significant influence among the
Pakistani Taliban and the Central Asian groups," terrorism expert
Evan Kohlman said. "They regularly post and share his videos on
the Web, just as they would with bin Laden or al-Zawahri."
In August 2008, Pakistani military officials claimed al-Yazid
had been killed in fighting in the Bajaur tribal area along the
Afghan border. However, he turned up in subsequent al-Qaida videos,
all of which had clearly been made after the Bajaur fighting.