Pakistani al-Qaeda bomb-maker killed in western Afghanistan

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A Pakistani bomb-maker who trained Taliban militants before switching allegiance to al-Qaeda has been killed in western Afghanistan, the country’s intelligence agency said Tuesday.

The National Directorate of Security said Mohammad Hanif was a close aide to Asim Omar, who headed al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and was killed in a joint US-Afghan operation in 2019.

The agency said Hanif, originally from Karachi, had “close relations” with the Taliban and helped train militants in making car bombs and improvised explosive devices.

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It said he was initially a member of the Taliban, but joined al-Qaeda in 2010.

Officials have long accused the hardline Taliban of maintaining close links to al-Qaeda, blamed for the deadly September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Two Pakistani women were also detained in the operation that led to Hanif’s killing, the NDS said, without providing further details.

The Taliban have not commented.

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Hanif’s killing comes just days after security agents killed Abu Muhsin al-Masri, a top al-Qaeda militant long-wanted by the United States.

The Taliban’s sheltering al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden was the main justification for the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Some 19 years later, in a landmark deal with Washington made in February, the Taliban agreed not to allow Afghan soil to be used by foreign extremists – including al-Qaeda – in return for the US withdrawing all troops.

Separately, the Taliban and Afghan government are currently engaged in peace talks that were launched in September, but have failed to make any significant progress.

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