Al-Qaida’s deputy was killed in Iran in August by Israeli activists acting at the behest of the United States, the New York Times reported, citing intelligence officials.
Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who went from Nom de Guerre Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was gunned down by two men on a motorcycle in Tehran, the NYT reported. He has been accused of helping to fight the 1998 bombings on two US embassies in Africa.
Masri has been seen as the likely successor to Ayman al-Zawahri, who is believed to be the current leader of al-Qaeda.
It is unclear what role the United States played in the assassination of the Egypt-born militant on August 7, the anniversary of the embassy attacks, the NYT said, adding that US authorities had been persecuting Masri and other al-Qaeda officials in Iran for years.
A US official, speaking with Reuters on condition of anonymity, declined to confirm any details in the NYT story or to say whether there was any US involvement. The White House National Security Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Masri was killed along with his daughter, the widow of Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza bin Laden, the Times reported.
Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks on the United States was killed in a US raid in Pakistan in 2011.
Masri had been in Iran’s “custody” since 2003, but had lived freely in an upscale suburb of Tehran since 2015, the NYT quoted nameless US intelligence officials as saying.
US counter-terrorism officials believed Iran, also a US enemy, may have let him live there to conduct operations against US targets, the NYT said.
It was not immediately known what effect Masri’s death had on al-Qaeda activities. Though it has lost senior leaders in the nearly two decades since the attacks on New York and Washington, it has entertained active members from the Middle East to Afghanistan and West Africa.