Abu Muhammad al-Masri, 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 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.
In response, Iran said Saturday that the Times report was based on ‘made-up information’ and denied the presence of any of the group’s members.
Iran’s foes, the United States and Israel, ‘try to shift the responsibility for the criminal acts of (Al-Qaeda) and other terrorist groups in the region and link Iran to such groups with lies and by leaking made up information to the media,’ foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement.
Khatibzadeh accused the US and ‘its allies in the region’ of having created Al-Qaeda through their ‘wrong policies’ and advised US media to ‘not fall into the trap of American and Zionist officials’ Hollywood scenarios’.
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, Dailymail reports.
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 also allegedly ordered an attack in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002 that killed 13 Kenyans and three Israeli tourists.
In 2008, the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center described him as the ‘most experienced and capable operational planner not in U.S. or allied custody’ as well as the ‘former chief of training’.
Al Masri was a longtime member Al Qaeda’s highly secretive management council and fled to Iran following the organization’s 9/11 attack.
‘They believed the United States would find it very difficult to act against them there,’ said Yoram Schweitzer, head of the Terrorism Project of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
‘Also because they believed that the chances of the Iranian regime doing an exchange deal with the Americans that would include their heads were very slim.’
He is one of the few high-ranking members of the organization to survive the U.S. hunt following the 9/11 attack but was taken into custody in Iran 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. The deal led to the release of five Al Qaeda leaders in exchange for an Iranian diplomat who had been abducted in Yemen.