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US, Israel worked together to track, kill al-Qaida No. 2

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4 present and former U.S. officers say Abu Mohammed al-Masri was assassinated by Israeli brokers within the Iranian capital in August.

WASHINGTON — Editor’s notice: The associated video above was printed Sept. 15.

The USA and Israel labored collectively to trace and kill a senior al-Qaida operative in Iran earlier this yr, a daring intelligence operation by the 2 allied nations that got here because the Trump administration was ramping up stress on Tehran.

4 present and former U.S. officers stated Abu Mohammed al-Masri, al-Qaida’s No. 2, was killed by assassins within the Iranian capital in August. The U.S. supplied intelligence to the Israelis on the place they might discover al-Masri and the alias he was utilizing on the time, whereas Israeli brokers carried out the killing, in keeping with two of the officers. The 2 different officers confirmed al-Masri’s killing however couldn’t present particular particulars.

Al-Masri was gunned down in a Tehran alley on Aug. 7, the anniversary of the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Al-Masri was extensively believed to have participated within the planning of these assaults and was wished on terrorism fees by the FBI.

Al-Masri’s dying is a blow to al-Qaida, the phobia community that orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults within the U.S, and comes amid rumors within the Center East in regards to the destiny of the group’s chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The officers couldn’t affirm these studies however stated the U.S. intelligence group was making an attempt to find out their credibility.

Two of the officers — one throughout the intelligence group and with direct information of the operation and one other former CIA officer briefed on the matter — stated al-Masri was killed by Kidon, a unit throughout the secretive Israeli spy group Mossad allegedly accountable for the assassination of high-value targets. In Hebrew, Kidon means bayonet or “tip of the spear.”

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The official within the intelligence group stated al-Masri’s daughter, Maryam, was additionally a goal of the operation. The U.S. believed she was being groomed for a management function in al-Qaida and intelligence advised she was concerned in operational planning, in keeping with the official, who just like the others, spoke on situation of anonymity to debate delicate intelligence.

Al-Masri’s daughter was the widow of Hamza bin Laden, the son of al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden. He was killed final yr in a U.S. counterterrorism operation within the Afghanistan-Pakistan area.

The information of al-Masri’s dying was first reported by The New York Instances.

Each the CIA and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s workplace, which oversees the Mossad intelligence company, declined to remark.

Israel and Iran are bitter enemies, with the Iranian nuclear program Israel’s high safety concern. Israel has welcomed the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iranian nuclear accord and the U.S. stress marketing campaign on Tehran.

On the time of the killings, the Trump administration was within the superior levels of making an attempt to push by the U.N. Safety Council the reinstatement of all worldwide sanctions on Iran that have been lifted beneath the nuclear settlement. Not one of the different Safety Council members went together with the U.S., which has vowed to punish nations that don’t implement the sanctions as a part of its “most stress” marketing campaign on Iran.

Israeli officers are involved the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden might return to the nuclear accord. It’s seemingly that if Biden does interact with the Iranians, Israel will press for the accord to be modified to handle Iran’s long-range missile program and its navy exercise throughout the area, particularly in Syria and its assist for teams like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad.

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The revelations that Iran was harboring an al-Qaida chief might assist Israel bolster its case with the brand new U.S. administration.

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Al-Masri had been on a kill or seize listing for years. however his presence in Iran, which has a protracted historical past of hostility towards al-Qaida, introduced important obstacles to both apprehending or killing him.

Iran denied the studies, saying the federal government is just not harboring any al-Qaida leaders and blaming the U.S. and Israel for making an attempt to foment anti-Iranian sentiment. U.S. officers have lengthy believed quite a lot of al-Qaida leaders have been dwelling quietly in Iran for years and publicly launched intelligence assessments have made that case.

Al-Masri’s dying, albeit beneath an assumed identify, was reported in Iranian media on Aug. 8. Reviews recognized him as a Lebanese historical past professor probably affiliated with Lebanon’s Iranian-linked Hezbollah motion and stated he had been killed by bike gunmen alongside along with his daughter.

Lebanese media, citing Iranian studies, stated that these killed have been Lebanese citizen Habib Daoud and his daughter Maraym.

The deaths of al-Masri and his daughter occurred three days after the catastrophic Aug. four explosion on the port of Beirut and didn’t get a lot consideration. Hezbollah by no means commented on studies and Lebanese safety officers didn’t report that any residents have been killed in Tehran.

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A Hezbollah official on Saturday wouldn’t touch upon al-Masri’s dying, saying Iran’s overseas ministry had already denied it.

The alleged killings appear to suit a sample of conduct attributed to Israel previously.

In 1995, the founding father of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad was killed by a gunman on a bike in Malta, in an assassination extensively attributed to the Mossad. The Mossad additionally reportedly carried out a string of comparable killings of Iranian nuclear scientists in Iran early final decade. Iran has accused Israel of being behind these killings.

Yoel Guzansky, a senior fellow on the Institute for Nationwide Safety Research and former analyst on Iranian affairs within the prime minister’s workplace, stated it has been identified for a while that Iran is hiding high al-Qaeda figures. Whereas he had no direct information of al-Masri’s dying, he stated a joint operation between the U.S. and Israel would mirror the 2 nations’ shut intelligence cooperation, with the U.S. usually stronger within the technical features of intelligence gathering and Israel adept at working brokers behind enemy strains.

LaPorta reported from Delray Seashore, Florida, Bassam Mroue in Beirut, Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad, and Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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