CATF Reports Feb. 27, 2017, 3:17pm

The second most senior member of al-Qaeda was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Idlib, Syria, on Sunday according to reports relaying information from within the jihadist-controlled areas. Abu al-Khayr al-Masri, an aide to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, was traveling in a small car in Idlib Province when a missile fired from a drone struck the vehicle. Soon after the drone strike, al-Qaeda supporters took to social media to mourn the killing of the deputy leader while the Pentagon confirmed it had carried out a strike in north-west Syria and U.S. officials allegedly told NBC that the drone was controlled by the CIA and targeted Abu al-Khayr al-Masri.

The death of Abu al-Khayr al-Masri, also known as Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abd al-Rahman, represents the most significant step in an escalated U.S. effort to target al-Qaeda linked jihadists in Syria. Although President Trump has yet to implement a clear policy on the Syrian war and its controversial rebels, his campaign rhetoric suggested that he may continue, or increase, the concentrated strikes on al-Qaeda linked leaders in Syria. Targeting al-Masri, a longtime jihadist and a critical member of al-Qaeda’s leadership, was an important step for the U.S.-led campaign.

Abu al-Khayr al-Masri remained close to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri after the two met as members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad in the 1980s and eventually escaped to Afghanistan together after spending time in Chechnya, Bosnia, and Sudan. It was in Afghanistan that al-Masri gained prominence as the terrorist group’s chief of foreign relations, the liaison with the Taliban regime, a member of the al-Qaeda Shura Council and the eventual host of a meeting of top al-Qaeda leaders about the planning of the 9/11 attacks. Following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, al-Masri fled to Iran where he was placed on house arrest and ultimately released in a hostage swap. In July 2016, a Syrian al-Qaeda outfit pronounced that al-Masri had arrived in Syria, the “new frontline of jihad.”

From the Guardian:

“One of al-Qaida’s most senior global leaders has been killed by a US drone strike in north-west Syria, jihadi leaders have said.

Abu al-Khayr al-Masri – who has been part of the global jihadi organisation for three decades and was a son-in-law of its founder, Osama bin Laden – was killed on Sunday when a missile fired from a drone hit the small car in which he was travelling. Masri had also been a close aide to al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, a fellow Egyptian.”

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