PESHAWAR, Dec 4: A close lieutenant of Osama bin Laden and deputy leader of Al-Qaeda has been wounded in US airstrikes near Jalalabad, an Afghan military commander said.
Speaking by telephone from the capital of Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province, Haji Mohammad Zaman, the corps commander of Jalalabad, said that Dr Aiman Al-Zawahiri had been wounded during intense US bombing on Melawa, a place some two kilometres to the west of Tora Bora, Osama’s mountainous hideout situated in the foothills of Spinghar.
“I cannot confirm whether Zawahiri is dead. But I know that he has been seriously wounded,” Zaman said.
There was no independent confirmation of Zaman’s claim.
Egypt-born Dr Aiman Al-Zawahiri is a co-founder of Al-Qaeda along with Osama bin Laden and had returned to Afghanistan with him in May 1996 to establish their network. He was a leader of outlawed Islamic Jihad in Egypt and had served a prison-term of three years in 1981 before leaving the country to launch an armed resistance against the Hosni Mubarak government.
Zaman said that another non-Afghan, Ali Mahmood, died in the Monday morning attack along with 18 others that included Arabs and some Pakistanis. The Afghan commander did not know which country Ali Mahmood belonged to but said that he was in-charge of Osama’s finances and monetary matters.
Zaman said that security commander of Jalalabad, Malik Hazrat Ali dispatched about 300 of his men to Melawa to take on the non-Afghan fighters that included Arabs and Pakistanis. “I sent a delegation of tribal elders to persuade them to surrender by Monday. They did not respond which means that they want to fight. So we are preparing for the fight,” he said.
The former Mujahideen commander declined to comment when asked whether American Special Forces would assist him in the operation against Osama’s hideout. “This is our fight and we are going to do it ourselves,” he said.
Zaman said that Osama bin Laden was in his ‘area.’ “He is our man and we are going to get him.”