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Terrorism & Security

Al Qaeda mastermind believed dead

Abu Obaidah al-Masri, a secretive figure behind foiled terrorist plots in Europe, died a year ago, US intelligence officials say.

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The New York Times reports that Masri had significant and valuable experience in planning attacks and that in addition to the 2005 London bombing, he was also involved in a failed plot to blow up commercial planes flying over the Atlantic Ocean in 2006:

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Mr. Masri, a veteran of wars in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya, was responsible for planning attacks against the West and recruiting operatives to carry them out, the official said.

American officials say that having Masri out of the picture diminishes Mr. bin Laden's ability to strike western targets, reports The Washington Post:

"Basically, he was the one heading up al-Qaeda's efforts to launch attacks against the West," said the U.S. counterterrorism official. Masri had many contacts in Europe and is believed to have traveled widely there in the 1990s before returning to Afghanistan about 2000, the official said.
The official said Masri's death would mean "a serious blow to al-Qaeda in terms of his key role and participation and plotting attacks against the West. It will disrupt those efforts at the very least."

Indeed, according to the Los Angeles Times, Masri's death could be even more important than bin Laden's capture:

Anti-terrorism officials consider operations chiefs more urgent prey than even Osama bin Laden because they are front-line figures in attacks on the West.

In recent years, Masri is said to have concentrated on the domestic fight in Afghanistan says The Washington Times:

Obeida al Masri, operating out of the mountainous Afghan province of Kunar, is thought to have been in charge of planning attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces. Violence in southern and eastern Afghanistan spiked last year, leaving about 1,600 people dead, including a surge in suicide attacks — a change of tactics by the militants.

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