By Ayesha Tanzeem
Al-Qaida’s South Asia region chief, Asim Omar, was killed in a raid in southern Afghanistan last month, according to a statement released by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency.
The Afghan National Directorate of Security said Tuesday a joint operation — a term usually used to describe an operation that involves NATO forces — in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province also killed or captured several other members of the group al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), including some Pakistani nationals.
A U.S. official confirmed Omar’s death Tuesday and told VOA the September 23 operation was “Afghan-led, U.S. supported.”
Omar was an Indian national born in Uttar Pradesh between 1974 and 1976, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. The U.S. added him to a list of designated terrorists in 2016.
Last month’s raid was followed by allegations of large-scale civilian casualties and conflicting reports from U.S. officials, the Afghan government, and local officials.
A provincial council member from Helmand alleged that 40 members of a wedding party, including women and children, were killed in an airstrike.
Haji Abdul Majed Akhund told VOA at the time that the residents of Musa Qala district, the site of the attack, had informed provincial authorities of the wedding ceremony in advance.
“We brought 13 members of our family to the emergency hospital in Lashkargah city last night,” a man named Abdullah told VOA after the raid, which was followed by an airstrike. Local health officials confirmed that 13 wounded people were shifted to the hospital.
“[T]he operation was aimed at al-Qaida targets in the Musa Qala district in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, a U.S. official in Kabul told The Washington Post at the time, on the condition of anonymity. The official acknowledged the possibility of civilian casualties.
A separate statement from the office of the governor of neighboring Kandahar province at the time said the target was al-Qaida.
“Last night, Afghan special forces conducted an air and ground operation in Takht Put village in Musa Qala district of Helmand province, killing five key members of the al-Qaida network and arresting three key female members,” the statement read, adding that all the members were from Karachi, Pakistan.
VOA’s Carla Babb contributed to this report.