WASHINGTON, Mar 1: The US government is investigating whether Al-Qaeda’s number two has been killed in Syria, an official said, amid reports of a US strike in or around Idlib.
The agencies were working to confirm whether Abu Khayr al-Masri is dead, in what would be a major counterterrorism coup, the official told AFP, on condition of anonymity, yesterday.
Masri was a son-in-law of Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and was believed to be deputy to the group’s current leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Egypt-born al-Masri, 59, was one of the most prominent figures in Al-Qaeda to have roots in the era before the September 1, 2001 attacks, according to the Soufan Group, a private security and intelligence consultancy.
“It was in al-Masri’s guesthouse in Kabul, Afghanistan, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed briefed top Al-Qaeda leaders about the planning of the September 11, 2001 attacks,” the Soufan Group said.
His presence in Syria’s northwestern Idlib underscored the importance the country has gained in Qaeda’s strategy, analysts said.
Al-Masri, also known as Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abdulrahman, joined Zawahiri in the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group in the 1980s before they enlisted with Bin Laden in the 1990s.
US intelligence believe Masri was involved in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
He was detained with several other Qaeda figures in 2003 in Iran and held until 2015, when they were traded for the release of an Iranian diplomat who had been seized by Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch. (AGENCIES)