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Al Qaeda leader on FBI's most-wanted list killed, Afghanistan says

Al Qaeda leader on FBI's most-wanted list killed, Afghanistan says
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Afghanistan said Sunday that it killed an al Qaeda leader who has been on the FBI’s most-wanted list in a raid last week. 

The Afghanistan government said it killed Husam Abd al-Rauf, a top al Qaeda propagandist, in an operation in Ghazni province, The Associated Press reported. The National Directorate of Security tweeted about al-Rauf’s reported death and released a photo late Sunday which it claimed included al-Rauf’s corpse.

The body shown in the photo resembled FBI images of al-Rauf, who also went by Abu Muhsin al-Masri. 

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The raid that reportedly killed al-Rauf occured in the village Kunsaf, two government officials told the AP, but details about what happened remained unclear. 

Amanullah Kamrani, the deputy head of Ghazni’s provincial council, told the AP that Afghan special forces headed by the intelligence agency went into Kunsaf, which he said was under Taliban control. The authorities went inside a home outside the village and killed seven suspected militants, including al-Rauf. 

Kamrani and the intelligence agency did not provide information about how officials tracked down al-Rauf and identified him. Kamrani claimed without evidence that the Taliban provided shelter and projection to al-Rauf. The Taliban told the AP they are looking into the episode. 

If the Taliban did give protection to al-Rauf, the group would have violated their peace agreement with the U.S. signed in February.

The FBI declined to comment to The Hill about al-Rauf’s reported death. Al Qaeda did not immediately acknowledge reports of al-Rauf’s death, according to the AP.

Al-Rauf’s reported death comes as violence has broken out in Afghanistan, including a Saturday ISIS bombing of an education center close to Kabul that killed 24 people and clashes between Taliban militants and the government in the midst of peace talks. 

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The AP noted that this violence and al-Rauf’s reported death could disrupt the peace talks and further destabilize the country, where U.S. forces continue to fight the longest-running war in American history.

The Afghan presidential palace released a statement about al-Rauf’s alleged death saying it “proved that the threat of terrorism and the Taliban’s links to terrorist networks are still in place.”

“The Taliban should prove to the people, the government of Afghanistan and the international community that they are ending their links with terrorist groups, including al-Qaida,” the statement said, according to the AP. They “should stop the war and violence and facilitate a dignified and sustainable peace in the country.”

Federal prosecutors in New York accused al-Rauf of backing a foreign terrorist organization and participating in a conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens. They filed a warrant for his arrest in December 2018, and the FBI added him to its “Most Wanted Terrorists” list.