November 15, 2020
The denial came in the wake of a New York Times report that quoted intelligence officials as saying the terror group’s No. 2 leader was killed on the street in Tehran in August.
Saeed Khatibzadeh, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, on Saturday.Credit…Iran’s Foreign Ministry Office, via Shutterstock
By Farnaz Fassihi | The New York Times
Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday denied a report that Israeli agents had fatally shot Al Qaeda’s second-ranking leader on the streets of Tehran, likening it to a “Hollywood” scenario manufactured by “American and Zionist” officials.
The ministry issued the denial to Iranian reporters in the wake of a report Friday by The New York Times, which quoted intelligence officials as saying that Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who went by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was killed by two motorcycle-riding assassins on Aug. 7.
That day was the anniversary of the 1998 attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people. Mr. al-Masri was accused of being one of the masterminds of the attacks.
The killing of Mr. al-Masri and his daughter was carried out by Israeli agents at the behest of the United States, The Times reported.
Saeed Khatibzadeh, a foreign ministry spokesman, denied “any presence of Al Qaeda” members in Iran. And he warned American media outlets “not to fall for the trap of Hollywood scenarios fed to them by American and Zionist officials,” according to the ministry’s website.
Mr. al-Masri’s death had been rumored but never confirmed until The Times’s report.
Mr. al-Masri, who was about 58, was one of Al Qaeda’s founding leaders and was thought to be first in line to lead the organization after its current leader, Ayman al-Zawahri. The F.B.I. had offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture.
Mr. al-Masri’s presence in Iran was surprising given that Iran and Al Qaeda are bitter enemies. American intelligence officials told The Times that Mr. al-Masri had been in Iran’s “custody” since 2003, but that he had been living freely in an upscale suburb of Tehran since at least 2015.
In its statement Saturday, Iran’s foreign ministry accused the United States and Israel of leaking false information to the news media “so they don’t have to take responsibility for the murderous actions of this terrorist group and other groups.”