World News

Al Qaeda confirms leader killed by drone strike in Syria

CAIRO (Reuters) - Al Qaeda confirmed on Thursday that a U.S.-led coalition drone strike had killed senior leader Abu al-Khayr al-Masri in Syria.

A statement issued by the militant group’s Maghreb and Arabian Peninsula branches said he died in a “treacherous” drone strike it described as a “new crime by America and the crusader coalition”.

A Hellfire missile fired by a CIA drone killed the al Qaeda leader on Sunday while he was riding in a car near the northwest Syrian city of Idlib, a U.S. intelligence official had said on Wednesday.

Al-Masri, 59, was a member of al Qaeda’s shura council and second-in-command to its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said Masri had sought refuge in Iran after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. He had been hunted by U.S. forces for almost 19 years.

Reporting by Ali Abdelatti in Cairo; Writing by Ellen Francis; Editing by Andrew Roche