Ahmad Shah, also known as Mullah Ismail, was the Taliban leader who commanded a group of insurgents known as the “Mountain Tigers” in the Afghan province of Kunar. He was said to be a key facilitator of al Qaeda militants in the region – many of whom come from outside southeast Asia and did not speak the local languages. Shah and the insurgents under his command were behind several attacks on NATO, U.S. and Afghan forces in the northeastern part of Afghanistan.
During Operation Redwing Ahmad Shah was the target of the U.S. Navy SEAL team consisting of Mike Murphy, Marcus Luttrell, Matt Axelson and Danny Dietz. The SEALs were inserted high in the Hindu Kush Mountains along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with orders to pinpoint Shah’s location and then direct an airstrike that would take him out. If necessary, the SEALs were directed to eliminate the terrorist leader themselves.
Shah became a hero to al Qaeda and the Taliban after his fighters overwhelmed and killed three of the four SEAL team members on the ground and then hit a U.S. Navy MH-47 Chinook helicopter with an RPG killing all 16 on board. The helicopter was carrying eight additional SEALs and eight U.S. Army Nightstalkers and was attempting a rescue of the SEAL team on the ground. It was the largest loss of life in the history of the Navy SEALs.
In April 2008 Shah was killed in a shootout with Pakistani police as he traveled with a kidnapped trader. He was believed to be on his way to the Frontier Province along the Afghan border. Shah reportedly kidnapped the trader from a camp for Afghan refugees in Pakistan and was trying to transport him back to the border when he failed to stop at a checkpoint. Shah opened fire on the police and he was killed in the exchange of gunfire that followed.
The chief of police in Afghanistan’s Kunar province described Ahmad Shah as the “most wanted terrorist in Kunar province.”