American official confirms death of deputy Al-Qaeda leader

U.S. intelligence official says missile fired by a CIA drone killed Al-Qaeda deputy leader in Syria.

Elad Benari ,

Al-Qaeda flag
Al-Qaeda flag

A U.S. intelligence official told Reuters on Wednesday that a Hellfire missile fired by a CIA drone killed Al-Qaeda deputy leader Abu al-Khayr al-Masri near the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib.

The attack took place late on Sunday while al-Masri was riding in a car, according to the official.

Arab media reported on Sunday night that al-Masri had been killed but the report had not been confirmed until now.

The 59-year-old al-Masri, whose real name was Abdullah Muhab Rajab Abdulrahman, was second-in-command to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and a member of its shura council, said the official, who was briefed on the attack and spoke on condition of anonymity.

He also was married to one of Osama bin Laden’s daughters, the official added.

The official said Masri, as he was widely known, had sought refuge in Iran after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, and was believed to have been in Syria helping to direct Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, an Al-Qaeda branch previously called the Nusra Front.

The Iranians released him from house arrest almost two years ago, in exchange for a diplomat being held hostage in Yemen by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Last month, an American air strike killed another Al-Qaeda leader in northern Syria, Mohammad Habib Boussadoun al-Tunisi.

Al-Tunisi died in the January 17 strike near Idlib, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said.

A U.S.-led coalition is striking Islamic State (ISIS) group targets in Syria, but has also hit leaders from other groups including the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, which has renamed itself Fatah al-Sham after breaking away from Al-Qaeda.

In November, the international coalition killed Abu Afghan al-Masri, a senior Al-Qaeda leader in Syria who previously operated in Afghanistan.

In October, the Pentagon said an air strike near Idlib had targeted a Nusra senior leader, Ahmed Salama Mabrouk, an Egyptian also known by his nom de guerre Abu Faraj.

Also in October, a United States drone strike in Syria killed Al-Qaeda member Haydar Kirkan, who had ties to Al-Qaeda's senior leaders, including former leader Osama bin Laden.