Al Qaeda Deputy Killed in Iran
The man behind the 1998 embassy attacks is dead.
New York Times (“Al Qaeda’s No. 2, Accused in U.S. Embassy Attacks, Was Killed in Iran“)
Al Qaeda’s second-highest leader, accused of being one of the masterminds of the deadly 1998 attacks on American embassies in Africa, was killed in Iran three months ago, intelligence officials have confirmed.
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 Aug. 7, the anniversary of the embassy attacks. He was killed along with his daughter, Miriam, the widow of 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 officials. It is unclear what role if any was played by the United States, which had been tracking the movements of Mr. al-Masri and other Qaeda operatives in Iran for years.
The killing occurred in such a netherworld of geopolitical intrigue and counterterrorism spycraft that Mr. al-Masri’s death had been rumored but never confirmed until now. For reasons that are still obscure, Al Qaeda has not announced the death of one of its top leaders, Iranian officials covered it up, and no country has publicly claimed responsibility for it.
Mr. al-Masri, who was about 58, was one of Al Qaeda’s founding leaders and was thought to be first in line to lead the organization after its current leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.
It’s remarkable that the embassy attacks, which really put al Qaeda on the map well before the 9/11 attacks, happened so long ago. And that, after years obsessing over the organization, this news now seems like an afterthought. Indeed, one has to work hard to find this on the front page of the NYT website.
We’ve learned the hard way that killing off the bad guys doesn’t do much to diminish the threat. There was a period in the mid-2000s where our forces were killing “al Qaeda’s number 3” so often that it became a running joke. Still, it’s good to finally get this bastard.
Further, while decapitation strikes didn’t prove to be the answer, something seems to have worked. Al Qaeda doesn’t occupy us even to the extent it did in 1998, much less the years after 9/11. We have long since shifted the focus of our national security strategy away from terrorism to “Great Power Competition,” especially with China.