Al Qaeda’s No. 2 is killed in Iran 22 years to the day after he launched attacks on U.S. embassies

Al Qaeda's second in command Abu Muhammad al-Masri was secretly shot dead in Tehran on August 7, according to reports

Al Qaeda's second in command Abu Muhammad al-Masri was secretly shot dead in Tehran on August 7, according to reports

Al Qaeda’s second in command Abu Muhammad al-Masri was secretly shot dead in Tehran on August 7, according to reports

Al Qaeda’s second in command was allegedly shot dead alongside his daughter in Iran in August, 22 years to the day after he masterminded devastating attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and injured thousands more. 

Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who went by the name Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was gunned down in Tehran in August 7 by Israeli agents who were working on the behest of U.S. officials, according to the New York Times. 

Yet as of Friday, he was still listed on the F.B.I.’s most wanted terrorist list with a $10million bounty on his head as neither the U.S., Iran or Israel have publicly acknowledged his death, despite it being rumored.  

It is not yet clear what role the U.S. may have played in his death but they are known to have been tracking his movements, and those of other al Qaeda leaders in Iran, for years. 

His death had remained a secret until now, the Times said. 

In fact, in reports of the shooting in Iran’s official news media, the victims were named as Habib Daoud, a Lebanese history professor, and his 27-year-old daughter Maryam.

The wreckage in Nairobi on August 9, 1998, following a bombing near the US Embassy in which 158 people died and 4,824 were injured. Al-Masri was indicted as the mastermind of the attack

The wreckage in Nairobi on August 9, 1998, following a bombing near the US Embassy in which 158 people died and 4,824 were injured. Al-Masri was indicted as the mastermind of the attack

The wreckage in Nairobi on August 9, 1998, following a bombing near the US Embassy in which 158 people died and 4,824 were injured. Al-Masri was indicted as the mastermind of the attack

Bodies lay around amid the devastation brought in by a bomb explosion near the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 7, 1998. A second bomb hit the embassy in Tanzania

The Times reports that Daoud does not exist and was an alias used by Iran intelligence officials who may have wished to cover up the fact that the Al Qaeda leader, an enemy of the state, was being harbored in the country.  

al-Masri, 58, is reported to have been driving his white Renault L90 sedan at around 9pm on August 7 when two gunmen pulled up to the car and fired five shots from a pistol fitted with a silencer. 

The Times states that four of the bullets went into the car, killing al-Masri and his daughter Miriam, who was also the widow of Osama Bin Laden’s son Hamza bin Laden. 

No country has claimed responsibility and Al Qaeda has not announced his death. 

al Masri was considered first in line to take over Al Qaeda, after its current leader, Ayman al-Zawahri. He was listed as seventh among the organization’s 170 founders.  

The terrorist leader had been indicted in the U.S. over the bombing of its African embassies in the 90s and had featured on the F.B.I.’s most wanted list for a long time. 

He is also allegedly ordered an attack in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002 that killed 13 Kenyans and three Israeli tourists. 

al Masri was a longtime member Al Qaeda’s highly secretive management council and fled to Iran following the organization’s 9/11 attack. 

He was taken into custosy in the country in 2003.  

Yet, he had been living in the upscale Pasdaran district of Tehran since at least 2015, according to the Times, after being released in a deal. It led to the release of five Al Qaeda leaders in exchange for an Iranian diplomat who had been abducted in Yemen.  

The FBI still had al-Masri listed on their Most Wanted Terrorist list as of Friday

The FBI still had al-Masri listed on their Most Wanted Terrorist list as of Friday

The FBI still had al-Masri listed on their Most Wanted Terrorist list as of Friday

While he was monitored by Iranian intelligence, it is surprising that he was allowed to remain in the country and to travel so freely to the likes of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. 

Al Qaeda, a Sunni Muslim jihadist group, is an enemy of Iran, a Shiite Muslim theocracy. 

It may have fed into the reasons why Iran went to great lengths to cover up his killing with the Daoud alias. 

‘Daoud’ was reported by Lebanese news channel MTV and social media accounts affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to have been a member of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militant organization in Lebanon. 

This lead to speculation that the assassination may have been a Western tactic to spark Iranian anger the week before the United Nations Security Council was to vote extending an arms embargo against the country. 

The history professor having been a member of Hezbollah would also have fit in with assassination having been carried out by Israeli gunmen. 

While Israel had been consciously avoiding killing Hezbollah members so as not to provoke violence, the group does actively fight against Israel. 

Yet is emerged that Daoud simply didn’t exist, the Times, states. 

There were no Lebanese news reports of his death and there was no record of him as a professor. 

One intelligence official told the paper that it had been a cover for al-Masri and the terrorist leader’s long-time friend, the former leader of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad, Nabil Naeem, confirmed the same to Saudi news channel Al Arabiya. 

It is not fully understood why al-Masri was allowed to remain living in Iran following his release but some experts told the Times that it may have been for insurance reasons, so the group would not organize within Iran. 

However, U.S. sources told them that it may have been to work together in operating against the U.S. who is their common adversary. 

‘Iran uses sectarianism as a cudgel when it suits the regime, but is also willing to overlook the Sunni-Shia divide when it suits Iranian interests,’ said Colin P. Clarke, a counterterrorism analyst at the Soufan Center. 

The Iranian government has denied that al Qaeda leaders remain living in the country with its Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi in 2018 claiming that if they crossed the border from Afghanistan, they were captured and returned home.  

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