Al Qaeda confirmed in an Internet posting yesterday that one of its top commanders, Abu Khabab al-Masri, was killed last week by a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan's lawless tribal region.
The United States has not independently confirmed that it attacked the compound in South Waziristan on July 28, "wary of embarrassing its Pakistani allies, reports the Associated Press. The attack, according to al Qaeda's message, killed five others, including three more commanders.
Al-Masir is thought responsible for training the suicide bombers that killed 17 American sailors on board the U.S.S. Cole at port in Yemen in 2000. He also helped command the Darunta training camp in eastern Afghanistan where he also led al Qaeda's research into biological and chemical weapons.
At the time of his death, the United States had placed a bounty of $5 million on his head.
His death, according to the Wall Street Journal, further degrades the original core of al Qaeda as al-Masir was one of the old guard whom Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the group's number two, trusted. Like al-Zawahiri, he was Egyptian.
Terrorism expert Mustafa Alani of the Gulf Research Center in Dubai, however, told the AP that "A big name does not mean a big impact on the ground" and said al Qaeda "has developed in such a way that it can survive and fill in any gap even if Osama bin Laden was to die."