US, Israel worked together to track and kill Al-Qaeda operative Al-Masri

US, Israel worked together to track and kill Al-Qaeda operative Al-Masri
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In this Aug. 9, 1998 file photo, Israeli soldiers bring in heavy lifting equipment to the wreckage of the Ufundi House, adjacent to the US embassy in Nairobi. The US and Israel worked together to track and kill Abu Mohammed al-Masri, a senior al-Qaida operative in Iran earlier this year. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim, File)
US, Israel worked together to track and kill Al-Qaeda operative Al-Masri
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This Aug. 8, 1998, file photo shows the US Embassy, left, and other damaged buildings in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, the day after terrorist bombs in Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (AP Photo/Dave Caulkin, File)
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Updated 15 November 2020

US, Israel worked together to track and kill Al-Qaeda operative Al-Masri

US, Israel worked together to track and kill Al-Qaeda operative Al-Masri
  • Al-Masri was killed by Kidon, a unit within the secretive Israeli spy organization Mossad allegedly responsible for the assassination of high-value targets
  • The revelations that Iran was harboring an Al-Qaeda leader could help Israel bolster its case with the new US administration

WASHINGTON: The US and Israel worked together to track and kill a senior Al-Qaeda operative in Iran earlier this year, a bold intelligence operation by the two allied nations that came as the Trump administration was ramping up pressure on Tehran.
Four current and former US officials said Abu Mohammed Al-Masri, Al-Qaeda’s No. 2, was killed by assassins in the Iranian capital in August. The US provided intelligence to the Israelis on where they could find Al-Masri and the alias he was using at the time, while Israeli agents carried out the killing, according to two of the officials. The two other officials confirmed Al-Masri’s killing but could not provide specific details.
Al-Masri was gunned down in a Tehran alley on Aug. 7, the anniversary of the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Al-Masri was widely believed to have participated in the planning of those attacks and was wanted on terrorism charges by the FBI.
Al-Masri’s death is a blow to Al-Qaeda, the terror network that orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S, and comes amid rumors in the Middle East about the fate of the group’s leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri. The officials could not confirm those reports but said the US intelligence community was trying to determine their credibility.
Two of the officials — one within the intelligence community and with direct knowledge of the operation and another former CIA officer briefed on the matter — said Al-Masri was killed by Kidon, a unit within the secretive Israeli spy organization Mossad allegedly responsible for the assassination of high-value targets. In Hebrew, Kidon means bayonet or “tip of the spear.”

Al-Masri’s daughter was also targetted
The official in the intelligence community said Al-Masri’s daughter, Maryam, was also a target of the operation. The US believed she was being groomed for a leadership role in Al-Qaeda and intelligence suggested she was involved in operational planning, according to the official, who like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.
Al-Masri’s daughter was the widow of Hamza bin Laden, the son of Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden. He was killed last year in a US counterterrorism operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
The news of Al-Masri’s death was first reported by The New York Times.
Both the CIA and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, which oversees the Mossad intelligence agency, declined to comment.
Israel and Iran are bitter enemies, with the Iranian nuclear program Israel’s top security concern. Israel has welcomed the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iranian nuclear accord and the US pressure campaign on Tehran.
At the time of the killings, the Trump administration was in the advanced stages of trying to push through the UN Security Council the reinstatement of all international sanctions on Iran that were lifted under the nuclear agreement. None of the other Security Council members went along with the US, which has vowed to punish countries that do not enforce the sanctions as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.
Israeli officials are concerned the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden could return to the nuclear accord. It is likely that if Biden does engage with the Iranians, Israel will press for the accord to be modified to address Iran’s long-range missile program and its military activity across the region, specifically in Syria and its support for groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad.

Proof of Iran harboring Al-Qaeda terrorists
The revelations that Iran was harboring an Al-Qaeda leader could help Israel bolster its case with the new US administration.
Al-Masri had been on a kill or capture list for years. but his presence in Iran, which has a long history of hostility toward Al-Qaeda, presented significant obstacles to either apprehending or killing him.
Iran denied the reports, saying the government is not harboring any Al-Qaeda leaders and blaming the US and Israel for trying to foment anti-Iranian sentiment. US officials have long believed a number of Al-Qaeda leaders have been living quietly in Iran for years and publicly released intelligence assessments have made that case.
Al-Masri’s death, albeit under an assumed name, was reported in Iranian media on Aug. 8. Reports identified him as a Lebanese history professor potentially affiliated with Lebanon’s Iranian-linked Hezbollah movement and said he had been killed by motorcycle gunmen along with his daughter.
Lebanese media, citing Iranian reports, said that those killed were Lebanese citizen Habib Daoud and his daughter Maryam.
The deaths of Al-Masri and his daughter occurred three days after the catastrophic Aug. 4 explosion at the port of Beirut and did not get much attention. Hezbollah never commented on reports and Lebanese security officials did not report that any citizens were killed in Tehran.
A Hezbollah official on Saturday would not comment on Al-Masri’s death, saying Iran’s foreign ministry had already denied it.
The alleged killings seem to fit a pattern of behavior attributed to Israel in the past.
In 1995, the founder of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad was killed by a gunman on a motorcycle in Malta, in an assassination widely attributed to the Mossad. The Mossad also reportedly carried out a string of similar killings of Iranian nuclear scientists in Iran early last decade. Iran has accused Israel of being behind those killings.
Yoel Guzansky, a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies and former analyst on Iranian affairs in the prime minister’s office, said it has been known for some time that Iran is hiding top Al-Qaeda figures. While he had no direct knowledge of Al-Masri’s death, he said a joint operation between the US and Israel would reflect the two nations’ close intelligence cooperation, with the US typically stronger in the technical aspects of intelligence gathering and Israel adept at operating agents behind enemy lines.


UN Security Council urged to enhance cooperation with Arab League

UN Security Council urged to enhance cooperation with Arab League
Updated 7 min 32 sec ago

UN Security Council urged to enhance cooperation with Arab League

UN Security Council urged to enhance cooperation with Arab League
  • Call for council members to unite behind Arab causes, and consider the views and concerns of the peoples of the region
  • States that are most susceptible to Iran’s malign regional behavior should not have to face it alone, says US envoy

NEW YORK: The problems that continue to plague the Arab world were top of the agenda for the UN Security Council on Monday, as it considered ways in which cooperation with the League of Arab states might be enhanced.
Members discussed the protracted conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Sudan, and the stalled Middle East peace process, as they agreed that multilateralism and cooperation are key requirements for peace.
Tunisia holds the presidency of the Security Council this month, and the meeting was convened at the request of Tarek Ladeb, the country’s permanent representative to the UN. His invitation stressed the need for a more effective partnership between the UN and the Arab League, and evoked Chapter VIII of the UN Charter, which sets out the role of regional organizations in efforts to maintain peace and security.
Both organizations were established in 1945 with the purpose of guaranteeing international peace and security. Cooperation between the two has grown over the years to encompass many aspects of this, such as conflict prevention and resolution, mediation, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, human rights and humanitarian aid, refugees, human and political development, countering terrorism, the prevention of violent extremism, and sustaining peace and disarmament. More recently they have addressed the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, and in 2019 a liaison office was established by the organizations in Cairo.
Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, called on the Security Council to unite behind Arab causes, and urged the permanent members to limit their use of the power of veto. He also asked the council to take into consideration the views and concerns of Arabs about conflicts in the Middle East, by helping to prevent external interference in Arab affairs, protecting the region from weapons of mass destruction, and ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
Ahmed Abul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League, told the council that the “dangerous mix” of the pandemic and continuing conflicts has taken a heavy toll on the region. He also said that a two-state solution to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which appears more elusive than ever, must be reaffirmed.
“We look forward to the new American administration rectifying policies and procedures that are not useful, and engaging in a fruitful political process with the support of influential regional and international parties,” he said.
“This would give the Palestinian people renewed hope that the international community will stand by its side in its noble aspiration to achieve freedom and independence.”
Abul Gheit also condemned “regional powers” for their continued interference in the affairs of Arab nations.
“It has become apparent to all that this interference has destabilized the region as a whole,” he said. “It has adversely affected the security of international maritime-navigation routes, which are a lifeline for international trade.
“It has also become apparent that this interference perpetuates existing conflicts and further complicates them. In Syria, five countries are interfering militarily in an apparent way. The security situation remains tumultuous and precarious, especially in the northwest, northeast and in the south.”
Rosemary DiCarlo, the under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has “exacerbated strains on the multilateral system, just as the need for solidarity and cooperation has never been more critical.”
She thanked the Arab League for its engagement with peacekeeping efforts in a number of protracted conflicts. This includes support for the UN’s envoy to Syria and the Syrian Constitutional Committee, upholding the international consensus on the two-state solution, its active role in brokering the Oct. 23 ceasefire in Libya, and its support for Sudan’s transition to democracy.
In Yemen the support of the league and key member states is crucial, she added, to the implementation of “the world’s largest aid operation, and urgently address the growing risk of famine before it is too late.”
DiCarlo expressed hope that this month’s AlUla Declaration, an agreement by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to mend relations with Qatar, will help to enhance regional security and prosperity. She called for restraint in the region and dialogue to ease tensions.
Rodney Hunter, the political coordinator for the US mission to the UN, commended “our friends and allies in the (Arab League) for standing firm against re-admitting (President Bashar) Assad’s Syria, and not normalizing relations until an inclusive political process is underway (in the country).”
He added: “There will be no foreign reconstruction assistance until the (Syrian) regime has fully committed to a political solution that is outlined in Security Council Resolution 2254.”
Regarding Iran, Hunter said that the regime in Tehran “remains the most significant threat to regional peace and security, engaged in malign activity across the region from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia.”
Iran-backed militias in Iraq “routinely engage in a statewide theft of Iraqi state resources, conduct targeted killings and stoke sectarian violence,” he added, vowing that the US will continue to “aggressively press the Iranian regime to end its role in this conflict and curtail its support for terrorist groups and militias.”
He said: “Individually, states are susceptible to Iran’s coercion, intimidation and malign behavior — and these states should not have to go it alone.”
Hunter also commended the Arab nations that have normalized relations with Israel in recent months and called for others to follow suit. Speaking on the day of the annual US commemoration of the life and achievements of Martin Luther King, Hunter quoted the renowned civil rights leader, saying: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Vassily Nebenzya, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, said: “The Russian concept of security in the Persian Gulf is an invitation to dialogue.” In a clear jab at the US, he added: “This is an invitation to peace, in counterbalance to an invitation to war.”
He called for an end to what he described as “the arms race and weapon display” and then he, too, evoked the memory of Martin Luther King, highlighting “a quote which apparently (the Americans) do not like: ‘A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.’”