A Pakistani bomb-maker who trained Taliban members before switching allegiance to al-Qaeda has been killed in a security operation in western Afghanistan, the country’s intelligence agency said.
In a statement on 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 fighters in making car bombs and improvised explosive devices.
It said he was initially a member of the Taliban, but joined al-Qaeda in 2010.
Officials have long accused the 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.
Hanif’s killing came just days after security agents killed Abu Muhsin al-Masri, a top al-Qaeda member long-wanted by the US.
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 armed groups – including al-Qaeda – in return for the US withdrawal of 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.