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Top al-Qaeda Leader Killed

A top al-Qaeda leader has been killed in a joint US-Afghan military operation, according to Afghanistan’s intelligence agency.

Asim Umar, the head of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), died in a raid on a Taliban compound in Helmand province on 23 September, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) said.

At least 40 civilians were reported to have been killed in the same operation. The US and al-Qaeda have not confirmed Umar’s death.

In a statement shared on Twitter on Tuesday, the NDS said the joint US-Afghan raid took place at a compound in the “Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala” district, where Umar and other AQIS members “had been embedded”. It said six other AQIS members were also killed, “most” of whom were Pakistani.

Raihan, Umar’s “courier” to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was named as one of those killed.

The NDS shared pictures purportedly showing Umar both alive and dead alongside the statement. Further details of the operation and what happened to the bodies were not immediately clear. Officials also said air strikes conducted as part of the same operation had killed at least 40 civilians attending a wedding party.

Umar has headed AQIS since its formation in September 2014. Little is known about him but he is said to be a militant, originally from India, who spent years in the town of Miranshah, a former militant stronghold in Pakistani tribal areas near the Afghan border. He is also reported to have worked with Kashmir-focused groups such as Harkatul Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammad prior to joining al-Qaeda.