Senior al-Qaeda commander killed by Pakistan military

Adnan Shukrijumah was previously charged in US over plot to bomb New York subway system

An  undated handout file photo provided by the FBI of  Adnan Shukrijumah. The Pakistan military issued a statement saying he  was killed in a raid in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area. Photograph: FBI

An undated handout file photo provided by the FBI of Adnan Shukrijumah. The Pakistan military issued a statement saying he was killed in a raid in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area. Photograph: FBI

 

Pakistani soldiers have killed a top al-Qaeda operative who was charged 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 Islamic State group. It also marks a major achievement for the Pakistani military, which mounted a widespread military operation in the northwest 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 today.

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 States,” said a senior Pakistani army officer.

As al-Qaeda’s head of external operations, the 39-year-old Shukrijumah occupied a position once held by September 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 Shukrijumah had recruited three men in 2008 to receive training in the lawless tribal region of 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. Attorney general Eric Holder has called that New York plot one of the most dangerous since September 11th.

Adis Medunjanin, originally from Bosnia, was sentenced to life in prison in November 2012 for his role in a foiled 2009 plot. Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay co-operated with the government in the hopes of getting a reduced sentence.

After the September 11th 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.

He had gone to South Florida in 1995 when his father, a Muslim cleric and missionary trained in Saudi Arabia, decided to take a post at a Florida mosque after several years at a mosque in Brooklyn.

But 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.

In 2004, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft called Shukrijumah a “clear and present danger” to the United States. Experts said what made him so dangerous was his first-hand knowledge of the United States.