Intl desk, Nov 14: Al Qaeda’s second-in-command was killed in Iran in August by Israeli operatives acting at the behest of the United States, the New York Times reported on Friday citing intelligence officials.
He was an accused of helping to mastermind the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa.
Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who went by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad Al-Masri, was gunned down by two men on a motorcycle in the streets of Tehran on August 7.
The killing of Masri, who was seen as a likely successor to Al-Qaeda’s current leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, was kept secret until now, the newspaper said.
It was unclear what, if any, role the United States had in the killing of the Egyptian-born militant.
US authorities had been tracking Masri and other Al-Qaeda operatives in Iran for years.
Al Qaeda has not announced his death, Iranian officials have covered it up and no government has publicly claimed responsibility.
Masri, one of Al-Qaeda’s founding leaders, was killed along with his daughter, the widow of former Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s son, Hamza bin Laden.
Osama bin Laden orchestrated the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and was killed in a US raid in Pakistan in 2011.
Shiite Iran and Al-Qaeda, a Sunni Muslim militant organization, have long been enemies.
Masri had been in Iran’s “custody” since 2003 but had been living freely in an upscale suburb of Tehran since 2015, the Times cited unnamed US intelligence officials as saying.
US counterterrorism officials believe Iran, also a US enemy, may have let them live there to conduct operations against US targets, it said.
It was not immediately known what, if any, impact Masri’s death has had on Al-Qaeda’s activities. Even as it has lost senior leaders in the nearly two decades since the attacks on New York and Washington, it has maintained active affiliates from the Middle East to Afghanistan to West Africa.