Benghazi Suspect Ali Awni al-Harzi Killed in Mosul Drone Strike

Ali Awni al-Harzi, a suspect in the 2012 Benghazi embassy attack, has been killed by a U.S. drone strike in Mosul.

Ali, a Tunisian, was arrested in 2012 for his suspected role in the embassy attack, and freed by Tunisia in January, 2013. [More...]

After being held for three months and interrogated in the presence of FBI officials, Harzi was released on Jan. 8. The Tunisian authorities said there was not enough evidence obtained from Libyan officials to keep him in prison.

He was charged with belonging to a terrorist organization, a charge that normally carries a sentence of six to 12 years, and his release was conditional on his remaining in the vicinity of the capital.

There are two al Harzi brothers, and some media, like the New York Times, are citing the wrong one.

(Here's a screengrab in case they fix it.)

The Pentagon said that the militant, Tariq bin al-Tahar bin al-Falih al-’Awni al-Harzi, a Tunisian who had been a “person of interest” in the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, died in coordinated airstrikes on Islamic State targets near Mosul, Iraq, on June 15.

A military official declined to say how the Pentagon had received proof that Mr. Harzi was killed, but said there was now certainty that “the airstrike struck its intended target.”

This is Tariq, who was not the one killed according to the Pentagon.

Ali Ouni Harzi's full name is Ali Bin Al-tahar Bin Al-falah Al-ouni Al-Harzi. He was born March 9, 1986. His passport number is W342058.

Tariq's full name is:

Tariq Bin-Al-Tahar Bin Al Falih Al-‘Awni Al-Harzi
AKA: Tariq Tahir Falih AI-Awni AI-Harzi
AKA: Tariq Tahir Faleh Al-Awni al-Harzi
AKA: Tariq Abu 'Umar al-Tunisi
AKA: Tariq Abu Umar al-Tunisi
AKA: Abu 'Umar al-Tunisi
AKA: Tarek Ben El Felah El Aouni El Harazi
AKA: Tarik Bin al-Falah al-Awni al-Harazi
AKA: Tariq al-Tunisi
AKA: Tariq Tahir Falih 'Awni Harzi
AKA: Abu Omar Houdoud
AKA: Tariq Bin Tahir Bin Al-Falih Al-Auni AI-Harzi

Tariq was born on either March 5 or May 3, 1982 and has passport number Z050399.

Their father is named Taher Ouni Harzi, and their mother is Borkana Bedairia.

Tariq is an interesting guy because his profile pretty closely matches that of the mysterious "Abu Sayyaf", the Tunisian killed in the Special Forces raid in Syria in May, whose wife, Umm Sayyaf, was captured and is still being interrogated in some secret place in Iraq.

The Soufan Group thought Tariq might be Abu Sayyaf. He's alleged to be a leader of ISIS, involved in oil, has obtained big amounts of financing for ISIS from Qatar, involved in kidnappings of foreign hostages, suicide bombers and recruiting. The U.S. announced a $3 million reward for Tariq's capture or killing several months ago.

Tariq Bin-al-Tahar Bin al Falih al-‘Awni al-Harzi was one of the first terrorists to join ISIL and has served as an ISIL official operating in Syria. He has helped to raise funds from Gulf-based donors for ISIL and has recruited and facilitated the travel of ISIL fighters. He was named ISIL’s leader for the border region between Syria and Turkey. As of late 2013, al-Harzi was chief of ISIL’s suicide bombers, overseeing ISIL’s suicide bomber facilitation pipeline. Al-Harzi also has procured and shipped weapons from Libya and Syria for ISIL operations in Iraq. On September 24, 2014, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated al-Harzi as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

Here is Tariq's designation. The same day, the U.S. listed ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani and the Chechen ISIS military commander, Abu Omar al-Shishani.

Al-Harzi has been recruiting and facilitating the travel of fighters for ISIL since 2013. He was named ISIL’s Amir for the border region between Syria and Turkey and, in this capacity, he was tasked by ISIL with receiving new foreign fighter recruits and providing them light weapons training before sending them to Syria. Specifically, he facilitated the movement of Europeans to Turkey, and eventually Syria. For example, he and several other ISIL border group members assisted foreign fighters from the UK, Albania, and Denmark. As of early 2014, Al-Harzi had also recruited North Africans to ISIL. In mid-2013 he worked with ISIL spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, who was designated as an SDGT by the U.S. Department of State on August 18, 2014, to move an individual to a training camp in Deir al-Zour, Syria, according to information available to the U.S. Government.

As of late 2013, Al-Harzi was ISIL's Amir of suicide bombers and a key figure in an ISIL facilitation network that played a central role in ISIL's suicide and vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) attacks in Iraq. In his capacity as leader of ISIL’s suicide bomber facilitation pipeline, AL-Harzi worked with other ISIL members to facilitate the travel of individuals from Syria into Iraq. In October 2013, he requested suicide bombers for operations in Iraq from a Syria-based associate. Al-Harzi also worked to provide material support to ISIL by procuring and shipping weapons with his brother from Libya to Syria for ISIL.

Al-Harzi worked to help raise funds from Gulf-based donors for ISIL. In September 2013, he arranged for ISIL to receive approximately $2 million from a Qatar-based ISIL financial facilitator, who required that Al-Harzi use the funds for military operations only. The Qatar-based ISIL financial facilitator also enlisted Al-Harzi’s assistance with fundraising efforts in Qatar.

In 2007, Tariq was sentenced, in absentia, to 24 years for terrorist activities by the Appeals Court of Tunis.

Like Abu Sayyaf, Tariq is tied to Tunisia, oil, kidnappings of foreign hostages, Omar al Shishani, Deir Ezzor and the al Omar oilfields. Abu Sayyaf is also mentioned in various places as the possible ISIS member who asserted control over Kayla Mueller. Former hostage Javier Espinosa wrote a few months ago that at one point, Kayla Mueller was held in another room at one of their places of captivity -- the one in Mansour (reportedly under the command of Chechen Omar al Shishani, who also engineered the takeover of the al Omar oilfield.)

Back to Ali, the one killed in the drone strike. Ali was added to the the U.S. list of specially designated global terrorists and U.N. Security Council’s al Qaeda sanctions list in April, 2015.

Syrian-based Tunisian national Ali Ouni Harzi joined Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AAS-T) in 2011 and was a high-profile member known for recruiting volunteers, facilitating the travel of AAS-T fighters to Syria, and for smuggling weapons and explosives into Tunisia.

The Daily Beast interviewed government officials about Ali al-Harzi and learned he was not suspected of planning or playing a major role in the Benghazi attack. He came to the attention of authorities when he posted something about the attack on social media right after it happened.

Harzi is not considered to be a ringleader of the Benghazi-attack network, according to three U.S. intelligence officials who spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity. He is, however, considered a suspect, because he used social media to tip off friends about the attack and was later arrested at Istanbul’s airport trying to get to Syria.

He was arrested in Turkey in October, 2012 and deported to Tunisia, where he was questioned by the FBI in December, 2012 and then released on bond in January, 2013.

US officials, including then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and John Brennan, who became the CIA director, were asked about Harzi’s release during congressional hearings.

In late January 2013, Clinton told senators that the Tunisians had “assured” the United States that Harzi was “under the monitoring of the court.” In February, during his confirmation process to become CIA director, Brennan claimed that the US government “didn’t have anything on” Harzi and, therefore, his release was not worrisome.

Long War Journal has more on Ali al-Harzi and his connection to Ansar al Sharia in Tunisia.

So according to the Pentagon, it's Ali al Harzi not Tariq, who has been killed in Mosul. It would have been a bigger deal if Tariq was the one killed. Unless, of course, Tariq is the "Abu Sayyaf" killed in the May special forces raid in Syria. I still don't understand all the secrecy about his and Umm Sayyaf's identity.

One last question: What was Ali al Harzi doing in Mosul, Iraq and how long was he there?

Update: The New York Times has now acknowledged and corrected its error.
An earlier version of this article misidentified the midlevel operative with the Islamic State who was killed in coordinated airstrikes on Islamic State targets near Mosul, Iraq, on June 15. He was Ali Awni al-Harzi, not Tariq bin al-Tahar bin al-Falih al-’Awni al-Harzi, (The two men are brothers.)
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