Intelligence officials confirmed that Al Qaeda’s second-highest leader was accused of being one of the planners of the deadly attack on the US embassy in Africa in 1998, but was killed in Iran three months ago.
Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah followed Nom de guerre Abu Muhammad al-Masri, who was killed on August 7th, the anniversary of the embassy attack Two assassins were shot and killed in the streets of Tehran on motorcycles. He was killed together with Miriam, the widow daughter of Hamza bin Laden, son of Usama bin Laden.
Four of the officials said that the attack was carried out by Israeli agents at the request of the United States. It is not clear whether the United States has played any role, and has been tracking the actions of Mr. al-Masri and other Al-Qaida agents in Iran for many years.
Mr. al-Masri, about 58 years old, was one of the founding leaders of Al-Qaida and is considered the first person to lead the organization after the current leader Ayman al-Zawahri.
For a long time, he has been a member of the FBI’s “Wanted Terrorist” list. He was indicted in connection with the bombings of the US embassy in Kenya and Tanzania, causing 224 deaths and hundreds of injuries. The FBI offered a $10 million reward for the information that led to his arrest. As of Friday, his photo is still on the “wanted” list.
Considering that Iran and Al Qaeda are hostile enemies, it is surprising that he has been living in Iran. The Shiite Muslim theocratic regime Iran and the Sunni Muslim jihadist organization Al Qaeda fought each other on the battlefield in Iraq and elsewhere.
US intelligence officials said that Mr. Masri has been Iran’s “guardian” since 2003, but since at least 2015, he has been living freely in the upscale suburb of Tehran in the Pashdalan area.
At around 9:00 on a hot summer night, he and his daughter drove a white Renault L90 sedan near their home. At that time, two gunmen with guns and motorcycles held up beside him. Five shots were fired from a pistol equipped with a silencer. Four bullets entered the car through the driver’s side, and the fifth bullet hit a nearby car.
As news of the shooting spread, Iran’s official news media identified the victims as Lebanese history professor Habib Daoud and his 27-year-old daughter Maryam. The Lebanese news channel MTV and social media linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard of Iran reported that Daoud is a member of the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah supported by Iran.
This seems reasonable.
The killing took place one summer, when there were frequent explosions in Iran, a few days after the massive explosion in Beirut Port, and a week before the UN Security Council considered expanding the arms embargo on Iran, tensions with the United States increased. There is speculation that the killing may have been a provocation by the West in order to provoke a violent reaction from Iran before the Security Council vote.
The two gunmen killed the target with a motorcycle in line with Israel’s previous assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists. It seems that Israel’s killing of Hezbollah officials who are committed to fighting Israel is justified, but the fact is that Israel has been consciously avoiding the killing of Hezbollah agents in order to avoid starting a war.
In fact, there is no Habib Daoud.
Several Lebanese with close ties to Iran said they had not heard of him or his being killed. A search of the Lebanese news media found no reports of the Lebanese history professor being killed in Iran last summer. An education researcher who has access to the list of all history professors in the country said that there is no record of Habib Daoud.
An intelligence official said that Habib Daoud was an alias given to Mr. Masri by Iranian officials, and that history teaching was a cover story. In October, Nabil Naeem, the former leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, expressed sympathy to the Saudi news channel Al Arabiya. Nabil Naim called Mr. al-Masri a long-term friend.
Iran may have good reasons to conceal the fact that it has sworn enemies, but it is not clear why Iranian officials would accept al-Qaeda leaders in the first place.
Some terrorism experts suggested that keeping al-Qaeda officials in Tehran might provide some assurance that the organization will not conduct activities in Iran. US counterterrorism officials believe that Iran may allow them to stay against the United States, which is a common opponent.
This is not the first time Iran has allied with Sunni militants to support Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Taliban.
Colin P. Clarke, a counter-terrorism analyst at the Soufan Center, said: “Iran will use sectarianism as a two when it suits the Iranian regime, but when it suits Iran’s interests, it will also be willing to ignore the differences between Sunni and Shia.”
Iran has consistently denied the placement of al-Qaeda officials. Bahram Ghasemi, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated in 2018 that some members of Al Qaeda entered Iran due to the long and porous border between Iran and Afghanistan, but they were detained and returned to their country.
However, Western intelligence officials said that al-Qaeda leaders have been under house arrest by the Iranian government, and then the Iranian government and al-Qaeda reached at least two agreements to release some of them in 2011 and 2015.
A United Nations counter-terrorism report issued by the United Nations in July concluded that although Al Qaeda has been eclipsed by the rise of the Islamic State in recent years, it still has resilience and has active branches around the world.
Iranian officials did not respond to requests for comment for this article. Spokespeople for the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and the Trump Administration’s National Security Council declined to comment.
Mr. al-Masri, along with Saif al-Adl, who was also detained in Iran, are long-term members of Al Qaeda’s highly classified management committee. The couple and Hamza bin Laden (Hamza bin Laden), who is accepting to take over the organization, are among the senior leaders of Al Qaeda. They flee Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks on the United States forced them to flee Afghanistan. Seek refuge.
According to a highly classified document issued by the National Counter-Terrorism Center in 2008, Mr. Al Masri is “the most experienced and capable combat planner, not under the custody of the United States or allies.” The document stated that he was a “former training leader” and that he “cooperated closely” with Mr. al-Adl.
Terrorism experts stated that in Iran, Mr. Masri had mentored Hamza bin Laden. Hamza bin Laden (Hamza bin Laden) later married Mr. Masri’s daughter Miriam.
Former FBI agent and al-Qaeda expert Ali Soufan wrote in a 2019 article for the West Point Military Academy’s Counter-Terrorism Center: “The marriage of Hamza bin Ladin Not the only dynasty connection.
Mr. al-Masri’s other daughter has nothing to do with Abu al-Khayr al-Masri, a member of the management committee. He was allowed to leave Iran in 2015 and was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Syria in 2017. At the time, he was the second largest al-Qaeda official after Mr. Zavari.
Hamza and other members of the bin Laden family were released by Iran in 2011 in exchange for Iranian diplomats kidnapped in Pakistan. Last year, the White House said that Hamza bin Laden was killed in an anti-terrorism operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
Abu Muhammad al-Masri was born in 1963 in the Al Rarbiya region of northern Egypt. According to his affidavit filed in the United States, he was a professional football player in Egypt’s top league when he was young. After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, he joined the jihadist movement that united to assist the Afghan army.
After the Soviets evacuated 10 years later, Egypt refused to allow Mr. al-Masri to return. He stayed in Afghanistan, where he eventually joined Bin Laden and later became the founding core of Al Qaeda. He is listed as the seventh of 170 founders by the organization.
In the early 1990s, he traveled to Khartoum, Sudan, with Bin Laden, where he began to form military forces. He also went to Somalia to help the militia loyal to the Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. There he trained Somali guerrillas how to use shoulder-mounted rocket launchers against helicopters, and trained them to shoot down an American helicopter in the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu. This is what is now called the “Black Hawk Down” attack. .
“When al-Qaida began to engage in terrorist activities in the late 1990s, Masri was one of bin Laden’s three closest associates and served as the head of the organization’s operations department,” said Yoram Schweizer, the organization’s terrorist project leader (Yoram Schweitzer) said. Tel Aviv National Security Institute. “He brought expertise and determination, and since then he has been involved in most of the organization’s business, with a focus on Africa.”
Soon after the end of the Battle of Mogadishu, bin Laden appointed Mr. Masri to be responsible for planning for American goals in Africa. They planned an ambitious and ambitious operation that, like the 9/11 attacks, would attract international attention. They decided to attack two relatively complete targets in a single country at the same time.
Shortly after 10:30 am on August 7, 1998, two trucks containing explosives were pulled up in front of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The explosion killed people nearby, blew up the walls of the building, and smashed glass blocks.
In 2000, Mr. Masri became one of the nine members of the Al Qaeda Management Committee and led the organization’s military training.
According to former Israeli intelligence officials, he continued to monitor operations in Africa and ordered an attack in Mombasa, Kenya in 2002, killing 13 Kenyans and 3 Israeli tourists.
By 2003, Mr. al-Masri among the leaders of Al-Qaida fled to Iran. Although Iran was hostile to the group, it appeared to be beyond the control of the United States.
Schweitzer said: “They think it will be difficult for the United States to take action in that country.” “Moreover, because they believe that the chance of an exchange agreement between the Iranian regime and Americans, including their heads, is very slim.”
Mr. al-Masri is one of the few surviving senior members of the organization, surviving the pursuit of the perpetrators of 9/11 and other attacks in the United States. When he and other al-Qaeda leaders fled to Iran, they were initially placed under house arrest.
In 2015, Iran announced an agreement with al Qaeda, which released five leaders of the organization, including Mr. Masri, in exchange for Iranian diplomats kidnapped in Yemen.
Mr. Abdullah’s footprint gradually disappeared, but according to an intelligence official, he continued to live in Tehran and was protected by the Revolutionary Guards and later the Ministry of Intelligence and Security. He was allowed to travel abroad, mainly to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.
Some US analysts say that Mr. Masri’s death will cut the connection between the last leader of Al Qaeda and the current Islamic radicals, who grew up after bin Laden’s death in 2011.
Nicholas Rasmussen, the former director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center, said: “If it is true, this will further cut the connection between the old al-Qaeda and the modern jihad.” “It further exacerbates the decentralization and decentralization of the al-Qaeda movement. “
Washington reported Adam Goldman and Eric Schmidt, New York reported Farnaz Fassihi, and Tel Aviv reported Ronen Bergman. Hwaida Saad provided reports for Julian E. Barnes in Beirut and Washington.