A prominent American source said that Israeli agents, based on orders from US officials, assassinated the second man in Al-Qaeda in the Iranian capital last August, which Tehran denied, confirming that there were no elements of the organization inside its territory.
But what do we know about this man so far?
Abdullah Ahmad al-Masri (57 years), known as Abu Muhammad al-Masri, is the second man in al-Qaeda and one of the founding leaders of the organization, and one of the most wanted people on the FBI’s list.
The man – an Egyptian by birth and former professional soccer player – joined Al-Qaeda when it was founded in 1988.
He managed training camps and played a role in the attacks carried out by the organization against American interests, including helping to prepare the Somali militants who attacked American forces in Mogadishu in 1993.
He is also suspected of being the mastermind of the 1998 bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people.
The New York Times quotes unnamed US intelligence officials as saying that Al-Masry has been “detained” in Iran since 2003, but has been living freely in an upscale suburb of Tehran since 2015.
The newspaper said that US counterterrorism officials believe that Iran may have allowed him to live there to carry out attacks against US targets.
Iran has long denied harboring al-Qaeda operatives, even though a number of prominent leaders of the organization fled to it from Afghanistan after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Al-Masry was one of the most close associates of the former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. His daughter Maryam, who was believed to have been killed with him in Tehran, was the widow of Hamza bin Laden, son of the former leader of the organization, who was killed last year in a US operation on the Afghan-Pakistani border.
The New York Times reports that al-Masri was killed with his daughter in a shooting carried out by two gunmen on a motorbike on August 7, the same day that the US embassies were bombed in 1998.
Social media users in Iran and Lebanon, as well as Lebanese MTV channel, last August shared news of the operation. However, it was reported that the attack claimed the life of a Lebanese professor of history who supported the Hezbollah group, Habib Daoud, and his daughter, Maryam.
Abu Muhammad al-Masri was on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List. And the US State Department has allocated a reward of $ 10 million to anyone who provides information leading to his arrest.
“Abu Muhammad al-Masri was one of the most important leaders of al-Qaeda – and the most culprits among them – on the ground,” says Nicholas J. Lewin, a former federal investigator in Manhattan who helped lead the investigations and trials of several prominent leaders and agents of the organization, adding that “his death is forbidden.” Al-Qaeda is one of its most experienced and influential leaders. “
Al-Masry was seen as a potential successor to the current leader of the organization, Ayman al-Zawahiri, 69 – who took command after the killing of bin Laden by US Special Forces in Pakistan in 2011 – and who is said to have died naturally.
And Reuters news agency quoted counter-terrorism expert Ali Soufan as saying that Iran had provided sanctuary for many prominent leaders of Al-Qaeda, even though they were killed in recent years one by one.
The newspaper adds that with the death of Abu Muhammad al-Masri, the only remaining member of the organization’s Shura Council who possesses operational experience for al-Qaeda is Saif al-Adl, who is believed to be still in Iran.