Abu Sulaiman al Jazairi was an alleged al Qaeda trainer and explosives expert who was reportedly involved in planning attacks on Europe and the US. He was erroneously reported killed in 2008. In April 2009, reports again suggested he died in a drone strike.
Little is known about Jazairi’s early life, other than that he was born in either 1963 or 1964 in Algeria; his nomme de guerre “al Jazairi” means “the Algerian”.
He is widely described by Western intelligence officials as an al Qaeda operative. He reportedly surfaced in Pakistan in 2002 as “a mid-level figure” according to US officials, but rapidly rose in prominence.
“He was a significant person within the al Qaeda ranks. Not in the top five, but he’s up there. The suspicion is he was one of those individuals involved in training and targeting Western interests. There is uncorroborated intelligence that he was involved in plots against Europe,” a European official told the Los Angeles Times.
Jazairi is said to have succeeded Abu Obaidah al Masri, reportedly an al Qaeda operations chief in Kunar, Afghanistan, and who was promoted to managing the organisation’s global strikes.
The name Abu Sulaiman al Jazairi appears in a leaked Guantanamo Bay file dated 2005, on a list of suspected members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) or the North African Extremist Network. He is listed as a known acquaintance of Abu Sufian Ibrahim Ahmed Hamouda, a Libyan national detained in the camp. Other reported members of the LIFG have gone on to assume senior al Qaeda roles, including Abu Laith al Libi, killed in a drone strike in January 2008.
The Los Angeles Times reported in May 2008 that Jazairi had been among 14 alleged militants killed when the strike destroyed a house in the village of Damadola, Bajaur, in May 2008. Other media outlets reported that civilians had also died in the strike.
A European official explained to the LA Times that intelligence on the death of Jazairi appeared reliable and alluded to announcements of his death on extremist websites. “There are good reasons to think that Jazairi is dead,” one US official told the paper.
“When it comes to training, this individual was an important figure,” the US official said. “People like him are vital to terrorist plots. That doesn’t mean he can’t be replaced. But when al Qaeda loses someone with his experience, it matters.”
Jazairi’s reported death was even cited by the then head of the CIA Michael Hayden as proof that the US had inflicted a “strategic defeat” on al Qaeda. However, a Pakistani official at the time said that the man suspected to have been Jazairi allegedly killed in the Bajaur strike was not in fact Algerian.
Nearly a year later, a strike on April 29 2009 hit a car in Kaniguram, Wana, South Waziristan. Jazairi was named as one of the suspected militants killed in the attack.
His name featured on a Pakistani Ministry of Interior list of senior militants killed by drones, published by The News in December 2012. As with many other senior figures who are reported killed, it is impossible to say with certainty whether he did indeed die, or whether the reports of the second strike were also wrong.
Sources and Citations
Pakistan Ministry of Interior stats (The News); American officials (New York Times);