Al-Qaeda’s deputy leader killed in U.S. drone strike in Syria

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Abu al-Khayr al-Masri, the deputy leader of al-Qaeda and the son-in-law of the late Osama bin Laden, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in northwest Syria, the group announced on Thursday, ending days of speculation about his fate.

Al-Masri, 59, was killed on Sunday when a drone operated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) carried out a precision airstrike in the town of al-Mastuma in the Syrian province of Idlib, striking a vehicle that was passing through the area.

Photos from the scene began circulating hours later amid claims from multiple sources that al-Masri had been killed, but the U.S. military declined to provide information about the airstrike. Al-Qaeda confirmed al-Masri’s death in a statement on Thursday, calling him a “hero”.

Al-Masri, an explosives expert who was born in Egypt in 1957, was al-Qaeda’s second-in-command and was a member of its shura council. He is also believed to have been married to a daughter of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed in a U.S. raid in Pakistan in May 2011.

Private intelligence group the Soufan Group called al-Masri’s death a “major blow” for al-Qaeda. “It was in al-Masri’s guesthouse in Kabul, Afghanistan, that (alleged 9/11 architect) Khalid Sheikh Mohammed briefed top al-Qaeda leaders about the planning of the September 11, 2001 attacks,” the group said.

In addition to his links to the September 11 attacks, in which hijacked passenger planes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., al-Masri is also alleged to have been involved in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.

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