Abu Khayr al-Masri

Abu Khayr al-Masri—born Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abd al-Rahman—was the U.S.-designated deputy leader of al-Qaeda, sitting directly below Ayman al-Zawahiri. Masri was the son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, having served in the al-Qaeda founder’s inner circle—and as one of his body guards—in the 1990s.“Treasury Designates Seven Al Qaida Associates,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 3, 2005, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/js2960.aspx;
Ray Sanchez, Paul Cruickshank, “Syria’s al-Nusra rebrands and cuts ties with al Qaeda,” CNN, August 1, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/28/middleeast/al-nusra-al-qaeda-split/;
Martin Chulov, “Al-Nusra Front cuts ties with al-Qaida and renames itself,” Guardian (London), July 28, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/28/al-qaida-syria-nusra-split-terror-network;
Ray Sanchez, Paul Cruickshank, “Syria’s al-Nusra rebrands and cuts ties with al Qaeda,” CNN, August 1, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/28/middleeast/al-nusra-al-qaeda-split/;
Bill Roggio, “Jihadist with same name as Zawahiri’s deputy reported killed,” Long War Journal, July 29, 2011, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/07/jihadist_with_same_n.php.
Masri was wanted by the U.S. for helping plot the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.Ray Sanchez, Paul Cruickshank, “Syria’s al-Nusra rebrands and cuts ties with al Qaeda,” CNN, August 1, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/28/middleeast/al-nusra-al-qaeda-split/;
Thomas Joscelyn, “Senior al Qaeda leaders reportedly released from custody in Iran,” Long War Journal, September 18, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/09/senior-al-qaeda-leaders-reportedly-released-from-iran.php;
Charles Lister, “Al Qaeda Is About to Establish an Emirate in Northern Syria,” Foreign Policy, May 4, 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/04/al-qaeda-is-about-to-establish-an-emirate-in-northern-syria/.
Detained in Iran between 2003 and 2015, Masri traveled to Syria following his release to join al-Qaeda there.Martin Chulov, “Al-Nusra Front cuts ties with al-Qaida and renames itself,” Guardian (London), July 28, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/28/al-qaida-syria-nusra-split-terror-network;
Martin Chulov and Tom McCarthy, “US drone strike in Syria kills top al-Qaida leader, jihadis say,” Guardian (London), February 27, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/27/us-drone-strike-in-syria-kills-top-al-qaida-leader-jihadis-say.
Masri was reportedly killed by a U.S. drone strike in northwest Syria in late February 2017, according to jihadist sources. Following reports of Masri’s death, Baghdad-based terrorism expert Hisham al-Hashimi referred to the al-Qaeda operative as the “ideological leader of the group in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.”Martin Chulov and Tom McCarthy, “US drone strike in Syria kills top al-Qaida leader, jihadis say,” Guardian (London), February 27, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/27/us-drone-strike-in-syria-kills-top-al-qaida-leader-jihadis-say.

According to an unnamed former al-Qaeda operative, Masri joined Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) group in Egypt in the late 1980s and grew close to Zawahiri himself. The pair reportedly traveled to Sudan and then to Afghanistan during the early 1990s, joining Osama bin Laden’s inner circle. He was implicated in the plotting of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and was reportedly tasked with handling the travel logistics and expenses of al-Qaeda fighters deployed on foreign operations prior to 9/11.Ray Sanchez, Paul Cruickshank, “Syria’s al-Nusra rebrands and cuts ties with al Qaeda,” CNN, August 1, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/28/middleeast/al-nusra-al-qaeda-split/;
Holly Fletcher, “Egyptian Islamic Jihad,” Council on Foreign Relations, May 30, 2008, http://www.cfr.org/egypt/egyptian-islamic-jihad/p16376;
Charles Lister, “Al Qaeda Is About to Establish an Emirate in Northern Syria,” Foreign Policy, May 4, 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/04/al-qaeda-is-about-to-establish-an-emirate-in-northern-syria/.
Masri was also believed to have been a member of al-Qaeda’s management council, overseeing liaison between al-Qaeda and the Taliban.“Al-Qaeda figures or associates linked to Iran,” Washington Post, February 14, 2014, http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/page/world/al-qaeda-figures-or-associates-linked-to-iran/810/. During this time, according to the Soufan Group, notorious 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed briefed top al-Qaeda leaders on the 9/11 plot in Masri’s residence in Afghanistan.Soufan Group, “A Major Blow for al-Qaeda,” Email, February 27, 2017.

Masri was reportedly arrested in April 2003 by Iranian authorities in Shiraz, Iran.Ray Sanchez, Paul Cruickshank, “Syria’s al-Nusra rebrands and cuts ties with al Qaeda,” CNN, August 1, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/28/middleeast/al-nusra-al-qaeda-split/;
Thomas Joscelyn, “Senior al Qaeda leaders reportedly released from custody in Iran,” Long War Journal, September 18, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/09/senior-al-qaeda-leaders-reportedly-released-from-iran.php;
Charles Lister, “Al Qaeda Is About to Establish an Emirate in Northern Syria,” Foreign Policy, May 4, 2016, http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/04/al-qaeda-is-about-to-establish-an-emirate-in-northern-syria/.
According to reports, he was held under house arrest for approximately 12 years before being released in March 2015 in exchange for an Iranian diplomat held in Yemen.Ray Sanchez, Paul Cruickshank, “Syria’s al-Nusra rebrands and cuts ties with al Qaeda,” CNN, August 1, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/28/middleeast/al-nusra-al-qaeda-split/;
Thomas Joscelyn, “Analysis: Al Nusrah Front rebrands itself as Jabhat Fath Al Sham,” Long War Journal, July 28, 2016, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/07/analysis-al-nusrah-front-rebrands-itself-as-jabhat-fath-al-sham.php;
Thomas Joscelyn, “Senior al Qaeda leaders reportedly released from custody in Iran,” Long War Journal, September 18, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/09/senior-al-qaeda-leaders-reportedly-released-from-iran.php;
Associated Press, “Iran Eases Grip on Al Qaeda,” Fox News, May 13, 2010, http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/05/13/iran-eases-grip-al-qaeda.html.
Masri traveled to Syria to rejoin jihadist activity, reportedly in support of the Nusra Front.Martin Chulov and Tom McCarthy, “US drone strike in Syria kills top al-Qaida leader, jihadis say,” Guardian (London), February 27, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/27/us-drone-strike-in-syria-kills-top-al-qaida-leader-jihadis-say. He resurfaced in a July 2016 al-Qaeda audio statement, identified as Zawahiri’s deputy. In the statement, Masri accepted the Nusra Front’s split from al-Qaeda, saying that al-Qaeda would support whatever “protects the jihad of the Syrian people.”Martin Chulov, “Al-Nusra Front cuts ties with al-Qaida and renames itself,” Guardian (London), July 28, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/28/al-qaida-syria-nusra-split-terror-network;
Martin Chulov and Tom McCarthy, “US drone strike in Syria kills top al-Qaida leader, jihadis say,” Guardian (London), February 27, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/27/us-drone-strike-in-syria-kills-top-al-qaida-leader-jihadis-say.

The United Nations added Masri to its consolidated list of al-Qaeda members on September 29, 2005.“Security Council Committee Adds Seven Individuals To Al-Qaida Section of Consolidated List,” United Nations Security Council, October 3, 2005, http://www.un.org/press/en/2005/sc8516.doc.htm. On October 3, 2005, the U.S. Treasury Department designated Masri for being a member of the former EIJ and al-Qaeda and participating in training and providing material support to al-Qaeda.“Treasury Designates Seven Al Qaida Associates,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 3, 2005, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/js2960.aspx.

 

United Nations

September 29, 2005

The United Nations Security Council added “Abd Allah Mohamed Ragab Abdel Rahman” to the al-Qaeda section of its consolidated list.“Security Council Committee Adds Seven Individuals To Al-Qaida Section of Consolidated List,” United Nations Security Council, October 3, 2005, http://www.un.org/press/en/2005/sc8516.doc.htm.

United States

October 3, 2005

The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated “Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abd Al-Rahman” for being a member of EIJ under Executive Order 13224.“Treasury Designates Seven Al Qaida Associates,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, October 3, 2005, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/js2960.aspx.

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