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Al Qaeda external operations leader reported killed

Jihadists linked to the Islamic State reported that a wanted Bahraini citizen who served as a leader in al Qaeda's external operations branch has been killed. The al Qaeda leader is on the US list of specially designated global terrorists for training "members of al Qaeda in terrorist tactics, techniques, and procedures."

Two known supporters of the Islamic State tweeted on Oct. 13 that Ahmed Abdulrahman Sihab Ahmed Sihab, who is also known as Abdulrahman al Sharqi, was killed. The tweets were obtained and translated by The Long War Journal. The date and location of Sihab's death were not disclosed by the two jihadists.

"May Allah accept him [Sihab] and have mercy upon him and let him reside in the vast gardens," one of the jihadists tweeted.

Sihab's death has not been officially confirmed. Al Qaeda has not released a statement announcing his death, nor have leaders who are on social media stated that he has been killed.

One of the Islamic State jihadists claimed that a "spy" who "placed the chip" that allowed Sihab to be found, presumably by the CIA, "was arrested" and "executed." If true, this would indicate that Sihab was killed in either Pakistan or Afghanistan. The same jihadist claimed that Sihab survived a previous drone strike along with Abdullah al Adam, al Qaeda's former intelligence chief who was later killed in a drone strike in April 2013.

Before his death, Sihab was "appointed in charge of the foreign work [operations] for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, which made America search for him and vigorously!" the same jihadist tweeted.

A member of al Qaeda's external operations council

The term foreign operations is used to describe what is also known as al Qaeda's external operations branch, which directs attacks against the US and its allies.

Sihab was known to plan terrorist attacks and train al Qaeda members for external operations. The US State Department, in its July 17, 2012 designation of Shihab, said he "has been publicly charged [in Bahrain] with planning terrorist attacks as a member of al Qaeda."

"Sihab has trained members of al Qaeda in terrorist tactics, techniques, and procedures," the designation continued.

At the time of his designation as a global terrorist by the US, American intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that Sihab is "an extremely dangerous individual, one we would like to get our hands on." [See LWJ report, US adds Bahraini citizen to terror list for serving as al Qaeda trainer.]

It is unclear if Sihab was a the overall leader of al Qaeda's external operations council, which in itself is part of al Qaeda's military council, or one of several council members.

In February, The New York Times reported that Abdullah al Shami, the nom de guerre for an American citizen, was "one of al Qaeda's top planners for operations outside Pakistan, including plots against American troops in Afghanistan." In March, CNN reported that al Shami "may now be heading that group's efforts to plan external attacks."

Another American, Adnan Shukrijumah, is also known to be a member of al Qaeda's external operations council and is said to be the group's operations chief in North America.

Sihab's death reported by Islamic State fighters

The reports of Sihab's death by Islamic State fighters, who claimed he was "a lover of the Islamic State and its soldiers," is interesting, and may be explained by the fact that at least one of the jihadists is known to be a Bahraini citizen. There is no indication that Sihab joined the Islamic State.

The Bahraini jihadist who tweeted about his death said that Sihab "was a preacher of the monotheistic [tawhid] method in #Bahrain and he graduated students who became soldiers of the Islamic state."

The final rift between al Qaeda and the Islamic State did not occur until March of this year, when al Qaeda's General Command disowned the group. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the Islamic State's emir, refused to follow Ayman al Zawahiri's order to quit the jihad in Syria for Iraq and reconcile with the Al Nusrah Front, which is al Qaeda's official branch in the Levant.

Sihab likely taught jihadists who were part of al Qaeda's network in Iraq and Syria, and at least some of his trainees then sided with the Islamic State after its fallout with al Qaeda.

[Source: By Bill Roggio & Oren Adaki, The Long War Journal, NJ, 15Oct14]

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