German Radical Reported Killed in Afghanistan

BERLIN-- A German Al Qaeda member whose online threats of attacks in Germany prompted heightened terrorism warnings ahead of 2009 national elections was killed while leading an offense on the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan, according to an Islamic extremist group.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan said in an online post that Bekkay Harrach, known by the pseudonym Abu Talha al-Almani -- "Abu Talha the German" -- was killed leading an attack on the Bagram Air Field. It didn't specify when.

Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office said Thursday it is aware of the posting but hasn't yet confirmed the death.

"It is being evaluated," said spokeswoman Anke Spriestersbach.

Harrach, a German of Moroccan background who once lived in Bonn, is the subject of an investigation by German federal prosecutors and is believed to have been hiding in the restive tribal areas of Pakistan along the Afghan border.

"He was the commander of a joint operation by Al Qaeda, the IMU and the Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, in which 20 brothers who were ready for martyrdom were going to destroy the stronghold of Bagram," the posting said according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. firm that monitors militant message traffic. "We had the honor many times to meet with him here in the mountains of Waziristan."

Harrach appeared in Al Qaeda audio and video releases in 2009 threatening attacks in Germany if it continued to participate in the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

Those messages and others prompted authorities to warn of an "increased threat situation" and step up security at airports and train stations.

The German-language posting is attributed to Mounir Chouka, one of two Bonn-born brothers with dual German-Moroccan citizenship well known for appearances in videos made by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan apparently aimed at recruiting more militants from Germany.
They are also under investigation by German federal prosecutors.

The posting also noted the deaths of another German extremist, Abu Askar, and a German-Turkish fighter Imran, both of which had been previously announced on another website, saying they had been killed with three others in a CIA drone strike on Oct. 4.

The attack came as part of a stepped-up use by the U.S. of drone strikes to target militants who use Pakistan's lawless tribal area as a base to launch attacks against foreign troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. refuses to publicly acknowledge the strikes.

Pakistani troops have a limited presence in the border regions, and militants usually quickly remove and bury the bodies of their fallen comrades. That means definitive identification of the dead is tough to get quickly, and often the confirmations come from militant websites.

"All five of them were sitting together eating when a treacherous U.S. drone shot a rocket at them," the posting said. "Thanks to Allah, our brother Abu Askar received what he longed for. There in Waziristan is buried a holy warrior from Hamburg."