US says it killed bin Laden-era al Qaeda leader in Syria

Washington, D.C. (CNN) — The US military said Wednesday it targeted and killed a longtime al Qaeda leader in an airstrike near Idlib, Syria.

Abu Hani al-Masri was killed in an unmanned drone strike on Saturday, a US senior defense official told CNN.

He was “a legacy al Qaeda terrorist with ties to the group’s senior leaders, including Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden,” said Eric Pahon, a Department of Defense spokesman.

Like Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s current leader, Masri was an Egyptian national reported to have fought with al Qaeda during the group’s earliest days.

Masri oversaw the creation and operation of many al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s, according to a statement issued by the Defense Department. It also called him one of the founders of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the first Sunni group to use suicide bombers in its terror attacks.

Egyptian Islamic Jihad attempted to blow up the American embassy in Albania in 1998. Under Zawahiri’s leadership, the group formally merged with al Qaeda in 2001, months before the 9/11 attacks.

“These strikes disrupt al Qaeda’s ability to plot and direct external attacks targeting the US and our interests worldwide,” said Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis.

The United States has targeted legacy al Qaeda fighters in Syria in past strikes. The Pentagon said 10 al Qaeda operatives were killed in a strike near Idlib on Friday. The US senior defense official told CNN an unmanned drone also carried out that strike.

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