Tuesday, 1 June 2010
The reported death of Sheikh Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, also known as Sheikh Saeed, along with members of his family in a US drone strike in North Waziristan last week, is a huge blow for al-Qaeda. An Egyptian who was a long-time companion of al-Qaeda No. 2 Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, he was a founder member of al-Qaeda, a member of its ruling shura and - since May 2007 - the head of the organisation in Afghanistan.
As a veteran he would have known many of the Afghan Taliban leaders personally and would have been instrumental in ensuring that al-Qaeda did not offend its Taliban hosts and at all times in Afghanistan acted under their auspices. In recent years those relationships have come under strain and it was hardly surprising that al-Qaeda moved much closer to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and particularly its former leader Baitullah Mahsud - who was killed in a US drone strike last August. al-Yazid issued a fulsome tribute to Mahsud on his death, calling him a "valiant and incomparable leader".
Since his appointment as al-Qaeda emir in Afghanistan, al-Yazid has issued regular statements through al-Qaeda's as-Sahab media house. Covering such subjects as the death of Sheikh Abu al-Laith al-Liby, the June 2008 attack on the Danish embassy in Islamabad, the December 2009 suicide attack on a CIA station in Khost and regular appeals to the people of Pakistan and appeals for money, they can be read on the website of the NEFA Foundation. No successor has yet been announced.