Beirut, March 3 (IANS/AKI) The Al Qaeda terror network has admitted the death of its deputy leader, Egyptian militant Abu al-Khayr al-Masri, in a drone strike in northwest Syria in late February.
"We confirm news of the martyrdom of the sheikh and leader Abu al-Khayr al-Masri, who died a hero in a Crusader raid carried out by a drone on Syrian territory," read a joint statement from Al-Qaeda's Yemeni and North African branches.
"This is evidence of a new crime perpetrated by the Americans and the Crusader alliance," said the statement signed by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Al-Masri's killing was confirmed on Monday by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an affiliate of the Al-Qaeda linked jihadist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly called Jabhat al-Nusra (the Al-Nusra Front).
The Pentagon on Monday said it carried out a strike in northwest Syria on Sunday but did not say who the attack had targeted.
The raid that killed 59-year-old al-Masri took place in the al-Mastumah area in Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, quoting local activists.
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's second-in-command, al-Masri was born Abdullah Muhammad Rajab abd al-Rahman in Kafr al-Shaykh, Egypt, on November 3, 1957.
A son-in-law of late Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, al-Masri was implicated in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in which more than 200 people, mostly civilians, died.
He was part of the global jihadist organisation for three decades, fought alongside bin Laden in Afghanistan and was a veteran of conflicts in Egypt, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Pakistan according to terrorism experts.