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Tags: Al-Qaida | Donald Trump | Middle East | Syria | War on Terrorism | drone | strike

Al-Qaida Confirms Coalition Strike Killed Top Leader in Syria

Al-Qaida Confirms Coalition Strike Killed Top Leader in Syria

In this file photo posted Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016, by the Syrian militant group Ahrar al-Sham, general commander of Ahrar al-sham, Mohannad al-Masri (center), is shown visiting fighters in rural western Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo)

Thursday, 02 March 2017 12:17 PM

Al-Qaida has confirmed top leader Abu Khayr al-Masri, believed to be the organization's No. 2, was killed in a drone strike by the U.S.-led coalition in Syria.

The killing of Masri, described by analysts as "jihadi royalty," could serve as a major security coup for U.S. President Donald Trump early in his presidency.

Two branches of the global jihadist group, including the powerful al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), announced Masri's death in a statement dated Wednesday.

Calling him a "hero," the statement said Masri "was killed during a Crusader drone strike" in Syria.

"All of al-Sham (Syria) will bear witness to the latest crime of America and the Crusader alliance," the statement said, in reference to the US-led coalition bombing jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

It also expressed its condolences to al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.

A U.S. official said this week Washington was investigating reports Egyptian-born Masri had been killed in a U.S. strike in or around the city of Idlib in northwest Syria.

The U.S. has escalated its bombing campaign in the province, mostly ruled by al-Qaida's former Syrian branch, now known as Fateh al-Sham Front.

In early February, the Pentagon said it killed 11 al-Qaida operatives there.

Masri was a son-in-law of Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and believed to be Zawahiri's deputy.

Also known as Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abdulrahman, Masri joined Zawahiri in the Egyptian Islamic Jihad group in the 1980s before they enlisted with Osama bin Laden in the 1990s.

U.S. intelligence believe Masri was involved in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

He was detained with several other al-Qaida 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-Qaida's Yemen branch.

Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute described Masri as "jihadi royalty," as a longstanding member of al-Qaeda's central Shura Council and "one of Ayman al-Zawahiri's closest long-time confidants."

The al-Qaida statement warned the "U.S. and its allies, agents and spies that the more martyrs they kill, the more determined we will be to achieve victory and avenge them."

Trump has put tackling so-called "radical Islamic extremism" at the top of his agenda.

He is considering a review of the fight against the Islamic State group, aiming to intensify the campaign, and is poised to revive efforts to ban travel from certain Muslim-majority countries.

Masri's presence in Idlib province underscores the importance Syria has gained in al-Qaida's strategy, analysts said.

Masri was born in the Nile Delta city of Kafr el-Sheikh in November 1957, during Gamal Abdel Nasser's rule.

He was one of the most prominent figures in al-Qaida to have roots in the era before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to the Soufan Group, a private security and intelligence consultancy.

"It was in Masri's guesthouse in Kabul, Afghanistan, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed briefed top al-Qaida leaders about the planning of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks," the Soufan Group said.

According to Treasury Department sanctions, Masri was previously responsible for coordinating al-Qaida's work "with other terrorist organizations."

© AFP 2021


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Al-Qaida has confirmed top leader Abu Khayr al-Masri, believed to be the organization's No. 2, was killed in a drone strike by the U.S.-led coalition in Syria.
drone, strike, terrorist, Ayman al-Zawahiri
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2017-17-02
Thursday, 02 March 2017 12:17 PM
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