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Israeli spies killed al Qaidah leader in Iran in August, news just in

The Israeli government is on record saying that its detectives had long penetrated Iran, smuggling out Tehran's nuclear secrets in 2008

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Politics World Israeli spies killed al Qaidah leader in Iran in August, news just...

Al Qaeda’s second-in-command, accused of helping to mastermind the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa, was killed in Iran in August by Israeli operatives acting at the behest of the United States, The New York Times reported, citing intelligence officials.

Two men on a motorcycle gunned down Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who went by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad al Masri, in the streets of Tehran on 7 August, the Times reported on Friday.

Both Israeli and American governments kept the information of the killing of Masri, a likely successor to al Qaeda’s current leader, Ayman al Zawahiri, a secret until now, the newspaper said.

A senior Afghan security source had said in October that Masri, who has long been on the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s list of Most Wanted Terrorists, had been killed in the Pasdaran area of Tehran. But media houses other than the NYT are not corroborating the information.

It was unclear what, if any, role the US had in the killing of the Egyptian-born terrorist, the Times said. American and Israeli authorities had been tracking Masri and other al Qaeda operatives in Iran for years, it said.

Al Qaeda has not announced his death, Iranian officials have covered it up and no government has publicly claimed responsibility, the NYT said.

Iran on Saturday denied the report, saying there were no al Qaeda “terrorists” on its soil.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement that the American and Israeli governments sometimes “try to tie Iran to such groups by lying and leaking false information to the media in order to avoid responsibility for the criminal activities of this group and other terrorist groups in the region”.

The administration of President Donald Trump’s “scare-mongering tactic against Iran has become routine,” Khatibzadeh said.

A US official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, declined to confirm any details of the Times story or say whether there was any US involvement. The White House National Security Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said it was not commenting on the report.

Israel has said in the past that its intelligence services have penetrated Iran in recent years, including saying in 2018 that it had smuggled out an alleged archive of Iranian nuclear secrets.

Masri, one of al Qaeda’s founding leaders, was killed along with his daughter, the Times reported. She was the widow of former al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s son.

Osama bin Laden orchestrated the 9/11 attacks on the United States and was killed in a US raid in Pakistan in 2011.

Shi’ite Iran and al Qaeda, a Sunni Muslim militant organization, have long been enemies.

Masri had been in Iran’s “custody” since 2003 but had been living freely in an upscale suburb of Tehran since 2015, the Times cited unnamed US intelligence officials as saying.

US counterterrorism officials believe Iran, also a US enemy, may have let him live there to conduct operations against US targets, the Times said.

There was an unusual killing in Tehran on 7 August, the day Masri was reportedly killed, that was reported by Iranian state media at the time. State media said on 8 August that a Lebanese man and his daughter had been killed in the northern Tehran neighbourhood of Pasdaran by unknown assailants on a motorcycle.

They identified the man as Habib Dawoud, a 58-year-old history teacher, and his daughter Mariam, 27.

The semi-official Mehr news agency quoted a Tehran police source as saying the two were in a vehicle and were “shot four times from the driver’s side”.

The Iranian government did not confirm the incident at the time, although on Aug. 8 the official IRNA news agency reported that the public relations office of Tehran’s Provincial Government had tweeted the report quoting several media, including social media accounts.

Israeli spies killed al Qaidah leader in Iran in August
FILE PHOTO: A notice placed in the Pakistani daily newspaper Jang by the U.S. embassy August 22, 2005 shows militants including al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The notice offers rewards for any information which could lead to the capture of the men. (Top row L-R) Osama bin Laden $25 million, Ayman al-Zawarhiri $25 million, Mullah Omar $10 million, Abderraouf Ben Habib Jdy, Faker Ben Abdalaziz Boussora, Midhat Mursi al Sayyid Umar, all $5 million. (Middle row L to R) Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, Saif al Adel, Ali Sayyid Mustafa al Bakri, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, all $5 million. (Bottom row L to R) Mustafa Mohammed Fazul, Anas al Liby, Ahmed Mohammed Hamed Ali, Sheikh Ahmed Salem Swedan and Muhsin Moosa Matwalli Atwah, all $5 million. REUTERS/Zahid Hussein

It was not immediately known what, if any, impact Masri’s death has had on al Qaeda’s activities. Even as it has lost senior leaders in the nearly two decades since the attacks on New York and Washington, it has maintained active affiliates from the Middle East to Afghanistan to West Africa.

The report of al-Masri’s killing comes weeks after the killing of two other senior al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan by local security forces.

In October, Afghan security forces killed Abu Muhsin al-Masri, another person on the FBI’s terrorist list, while the Afghan government this month announced that it had killed yet another senior al Qaeda commander.

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi in Kabul and by the Dubai newsroom; Editing by Leslie Adler, Sonya Hepinstall and Frances Kerry

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Reuters
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Reuters is an international news organization owned by Thomson Reuters. It employs some 2,500 journalists and 600 photojournalists in about 200 locations worldwide. The agency was established in London in 1851 by the German-born Paul Reuter. It was acquired by the Thomson Corporation in 2008 and now makes up the media division of Thomson Reuters.

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