The long saga of South Florida’s leading al Qaida figure has added another chapter nearly a year after his death in Pakistan.
The Pakistani Taliban announced Wednesday that a former al Qaida operative had confessed to leaking the whereabouts of Adnan El Shukrijumah, the onetime Miramar, Fla., resident who rose in al Qaida’s ranks to be a top commander, perhaps chief of the terrorist group’s external operations.
Shukrijumah was killed in a South Waziristan village by helicopter-borne Pakistani troops sent to capture him last December. He’d evaded detection by U.S. security agencies for more than a decade.
“Under interrogation, Yasser alias Shikari made dramatic disclosures, including his personal involvement in heinous activities including the martyrdom of Adnan Shukri and many others,” Mohammed Khorasani, chief spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), said in a statement emailed to McClatchy.
Shukrijumah is believed to have been mentored by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the former al Qaida operations chief awaiting trial for allegedly masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks.
The TTP attached an Islamic prayer suffix, typically reserved for saintly Islamic figures, to Shukrijumah’s name, indicating his seniority in al Qaida.
Shukrijumah is believed to have been mentored by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the former al Qaida operations chief who is awaiting trial before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for allegedly masterminding the Sept. 11 attacks.
Born in Saudi Arabia of Guyanese parents, Shukrijumah was raised in Brooklyn before moving with his parents to Miramar, northwest of Miami, where his father was imam at a local mosque. He studied off and on at Broward Community College but left home, apparently to join al Qaida.
He last visited his parents in Florida in 2001, prior to the Sept. 11 attacks. His possible ties to the 9/11 hijackers, who also lived in South Florida, have been the subject of speculation for years.
He was elevated to the FBI’s most-wanted list in March 2003 and was indicted in 2009 for allegedly plotting to bomb the New York subway.
By their own admission, U.S. authorities had received no intelligence on Shukrijumah’s whereabouts since he’d reportedly attended a 2004 meeting of second-generation al-Qaida leaders in South Waziristan.
Shukrijumah evaded detection by moving between safe houses in remote areas at the convergence of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, two retired militants told McClatchy last year after recognizing him from photographs published by Pakistani media after his death.
Both said they’d seen him in person during his training in Afghanistan in the late 1990s and at a terrorist safe house in the western Pakistani province of Baluchistan, between 2010 and 2012.
Shukrjumah was a frequent visitor to Sirajuddin Haqqani, the military commander of the al Qaida-allied Haqqani network, at the network’s base in the North Waziristan tribal area. He took up residence there under Haqqani’s protection between late 2012 and early 2014.
But a Pakistani military offensive uprooted him, first from North Waziristan, and then in November last year from the Shawal Valley. Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence directorate received reports he’d been sighted near Wana, the administrative headquarters of South Waziristan, about two weeks before his death.
Khorasani, the TTP spokesman, said Shikari – the mole reported to have admitted to leaking Shukrijumah’s whereabouts to the Pakistani military – had previously been a mid-ranking commander of the Khorasan Group militant faction based in Wana.
Khorasani said the mole joined al Qaida last year, before quickly shifting his allegiance to the TTP. The group did not trust Shikari’s motives, however, and maintained “hawk-like” observation of his activities, leading to his arrest and interrogation.
A video of Shikari’s confession would be released online soon, Khorasani said. There was no word on his likely fate.
Hussain is a McClatchy special correspondent. Twitter: @tomthehack