Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command was killed in Iran in August by Israeli operatives acting at the behest of the United States, the New York Times reported on Friday, citing intelligence officials.
Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who went by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was gunned down on the streets of Tehran by two assassins on a motorcycle on August 7 this year, the anniversary of the embassy attacks.
He was killed along with his daughter, Miriam, the widow of for Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s son, Hamza bin Laden.
The attack was carried out by Israeli operatives at the behest of the United States, according to four of the intelligence officials who confirmed al-Masri’s killing, the NYT report said.
It is unclear what role was played by the United States in the killing of the Egyptian-born militant, which had been tracking the movements of al-Masri and other Al-Qaeda operatives in Iran for years.
The killing of al-Masri, who was seen as a likely successor to Al-Qaeda’s current leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was kept secret until now for unknown reasons.
Al-Qaeda has not announced the death yet, neither has any country publicly claimed responsibility for it.
Iran on Saturday denied the report, saying there were no Al-Qaeda “terrorists” on its soil.
In a statement, the country’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that the United States and Israel 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 U.S. 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 NYT report or say whether there was any US involvement. The White House National Security Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Al-Masri, 58, was one of Al-Qaeda’s founding leaders. He 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.
Long featured on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list, he had been indicted in the United States for 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people and wounded hundreds. The FBI offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture, and as of Friday, his picture was still on the Most Wanted list.