LONDON – Intelligence officials say an Al Qaeda militant with links to European recruiting and training cells has been killed in Pakistan.
Moez Garsalloui, a 43-year-old Tunisian, fled Europe years ago for the remote tribal region of Waziristan.
Two intelligence officials confirmed Thursday that Garsalloui — also known as Moezuddin al-Qayrawani — died in a raid this month, though neither the circumstances nor the precise date could be immediately confirmed.
News of his death was originally reported by the U.S.-based SITE Intel Group, which tracks militant websites.
Garsalloui was suspected in the kidnappings of a Swiss couple who were held captive for eight months in North Waziristan, an Al Qaeda and Taliban stronghold, according to the intelligence officials who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Although he was known as an experienced militant with explosives skills, Garsalloui wasn't considered a top Al Qaeda leader or strategist. Still, dozens of Al Qaeda leaders and militants have been killed in recent years, crippling advances made by the group and its affiliates.
Garsalloui came onto European intelligence officials' radar nearly a decade ago with his Belgian wife, Malika El Aroud, who was recently sentenced to eight years in prison in Belgium for heading a terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda and running a Web site that glorified suicide bombings.
Intelligence officials say through her French-language blog, El Aroud lured dozens of women into extremism across Europe.
She was convicted in Switzerland in June 2007 for running a Web site propagating hardline Islamic ideals. She received a six-month suspended sentence and returned to Belgium, where she continued her Web site.
Brussels police raided houses across the city in 2008, detaining 14 people on suspicion they had associated with Garsalloui. Al Aroud and others were sentenced in 2010, and Garsalloui, who had fled at that point, was tried in absentia.
Though most of the women who made contact with El Aroud through her blog were French speaking Muslims, her posts have resonated with English speaking women in countries such as Britain, according to the two intelligence officials who said they are actively tracking dozens of women suspected of extremist links.
El Aroud's first husband died in a suicide attack on a top anti-Taliban leader in Afghanistan just two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.