Israeli operatives killed Al-Qaeda’s No. 2 leader in Iran in August

Israeli operatives killed Al-Qaeda’s No. 2 leader in Iran in August
Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, also known as Abu Muhammad Al-Masri, (FBI photo via Wikipedia)
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Updated 14 November 2020

Israeli operatives killed Al-Qaeda’s No. 2 leader in Iran in August

Israeli operatives killed Al-Qaeda’s No. 2 leader in Iran in August
  • Al Masri was seen as a likely successor to Al-Qaeda’s current leader, Ayman Al-Zawahri
  • Iran has since denied the NYT report

WASHINGTON: 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.

Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who went by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad Al-Masri, was gunned down by two men on a motorcycle in the streets of Tehran on Aug. 7, the Times reported on Friday.

The killing of Masri, who was seen as a likely successor to Al-Qaeda’s current leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, was kept secret until now, the newspaper said.

A senior Afghan security source told Reuters in October that Masri, who has long been on the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted Terrorists list, had been killed in the Pasdaran area of ​​Tehran. Reuters had been unable to corroborate that information.

It was unclear what, if any, role the United States had in the killing of the Egyptian-born militant, the Times said. US 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 Times said.

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

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 Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US and was killed in a US raid in Pakistan in 2011.

Shiite 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 may have let him live there to conduct operations against US targets, the Times said.

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

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.


UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly

UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly
Updated 58 min 8 sec ago

UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly

UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly
  • PM Boris Johnson had previously said evidence showed higher mortality rate 
  • Top medics have said it is “too early” to say whether the variant carries with it a higher mortality rate

LONDON: The discovery of a new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variant in the UK should not alter the response to the pandemic, scientists say, despite fears that it could prove more deadly.
Top medics have said it is “too early” to say whether the variant, thought to be up to 70 percent more transmissible, carries with it a higher mortality rate.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed there was “some evidence” the variant had “a higher degree of mortality” at a press conference on Friday, Jan. 22, with the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, adding it could be up to 30 percent more deadly. 
That came after a briefing by the UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) said there was a “realistic possibility” of an increased risk of death.
Prof. Peter Horby, Nervtag’s chairman, said: “Scientists are looking at the possibility that there is increased severity ... and after a week of looking at the data we came to the conclusion that it was a realistic possibility.
“We need to be transparent about that. If we were not telling people about this we would be accused of covering it up.”
But infectious disease modeller Prof. Graham Medley, one of the authors of the Nervtag briefing, told the BBC: “The question about whether it is more dangerous in terms of mortality I think is still open.
He added: “In terms of making the situation worse it is not a game changer. It is a very bad thing that is slightly worse.”
Dr. Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling for the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said he was “quite surprised” Johnson had made the claim.
“I just worry that where we report things pre-emptively where the data are not really particularly strong,” he added.