American intelligence officials say that Abu Muhammad al-Masri had been living in an upscale suburb of Tehran since 2015.
By JNS with EJP
Israeli operatives shot al-Qaeda’s second in command on the streets of Tehran on behalf of the United States, intelligence officials told The New York Times in a report published on Friday.
Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who went by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was one of the planners of the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. He was shot in his car, together with his daughter Miriam, by two people on a motorcycle on Aug. 7, the anniversary of the attacks. His daughter was the widow of one of the sons of Osama bin Laden.
Al-Masri was on the F.B.I.’s Most Wanted Terrorist List and had been indicted in the United States for the embassy attacks. The Times quoted a former Israeli intelligence official as saying that al-Masri had continued to oversee Africa operations, and had ordered the 2002 attack in Mombasa, Kenya that killed 13 Kenyans and three Israelis.
According to Israel’s Channel 12, Al-Masri was planning attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets around the world.
While the New York Times report claimed that the hitmen were Mossad agents, the Israeli outlet said that the gunmen were likely “foreign operatives activated by Israel.”
Iran denied the report on Saturday. “From time to time, Washington and Tel Aviv 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,” said the Iranian foreign ministry, according to Reuters.
American intelligence officials say that al-Masri had been living in an upscale suburb of Tehran since 2015, according to The New York Times.
The reported operation represents another failure of the Iranian security apparatus and an impressive intelligence and operational success for Israel and the US. It comes after other intelligence operations against the Iranian nuclear program, including explosions in Natanz and the capturing of the Iranian nuclear archive.
The modus operandi, by gunmen on a motorbike with a silencer, is reminiscent of assassinations against several Iranian nuclear scientists from a decade ago, attributed to the Mossad.
The timing of the revelation could be to send a signal to President-elect Joe Biden as to the closeness of Israel-US intelligence ties.
Israel-US intelligence agencies have cooperated closely on other operations in the past, including the targeting of Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus in 2008, the Stuxnet virus that damaged the Iranian nuclear project and the reported cyberattack on the Bandar Abbas port earlier this year.
According to Israeli analysts, Abdulllah would not have been a priority for Mossad, who were unlikely to have risked its own personnel to such a dangerous mission. More likely, the strike was carried out by third party operatives, from Iranian opposition groups.