PESHAWAR, Pakistan, (Reuters) – Senior Al Qaeda commander Abu Saeed al-Masri has been killed in recent clashes with Pakistani forces in a Pakistani region near the Afghan border, a security official said on Tuesday. “He was believed to be among the top leadership of al Qaeda,” the senior security official said on condition of anonymity.
Al-Masri, which means Egyptian, was the most senior al Qaeda operative to have been killed in Pakistan’s tribal belt since the death of his compatriot, Abu Khabab al-Masri, an Qaeda chemical and biological weapons expert, last month.
Television channels identified the dead man as Mustafa Abu al-Yazid and said he was also known as Abu Saeed al-Masri. He was killed in recent clashes in the Bajaur tribal region, a known sanctuary for al Qaeda operatives on the Afghan border, the security official said.
Yazid, commander of al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan, was an Egyptian who served time in jail with al Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri after the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. He has been referred to as al Qaeda’s third most senior figure, after the elimination or capture of five earlier occupants of the number three spot since 2001.
Earlier, the September 11 Commission described Yazid as the network’s “chief financial manager”.
Nearly 160 people have been killed in clashes between Pakistani security forces and the militants in Bajaur since last Wednesday. “There are many foreign elements there, more than local militants,” the security official said.
Yazid gave a rare interview to Pakistan’s private Geo Television, aired last month, in which said a suicide bomber who carried out an attack on the Danish embassy in Islamabad in June came from the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Mahmood Shah, a former security chief of Pakistan’s northwestern ethnic Pastun tribal areas, said al-Masri and Yazid appeared to be the same person.