TEHRAN: On 7 August 2020, Iranian media reported that Habib Daoud, a Lebanese history professor, and his 27-year-old daughter Maryam had been killed in a drive-by shooting. Lebanese media reported that Mr Daoud had been a member of Hezbollah, an Iranian backed militia.
The only problem was, Habib Daoud didn’t exist.
In an intelligence hit worthy of fantastical novels and James Bond films, two Israeli agents shot five bullets in a white Renault L90 sedan, four of which hit Al Qaeda’s number two leader and former head of operations, Abu Muhammad al-Masri.
Al Masri’s daughter, Miriam, who was also the widow of the slain Hamza bin Laden (son of Osama bin laden) also lost her life when Israeli agents shot her father with a silenced pistol.
The hit has stunned intelligence operators worldwide since Al Qaeda is considered to be dominated by Sunni extremists while Iran is a Shia majority country.
US intelligence operators told The New York Times that Iran might have hosted Al Qaeda members with the condition that Iran would not be attacked while operations in the United States could be planned and organised in Iran.
Sources privy to these developments suggest that the hit was made not only with the blessing of the United States of America but also with their express support.
“Iran uses sectarianism as a cudgel when it suits the regime, but is also willing to overlook the Sunni-Shia divide when it suits Iranian interests,” Colin P. Clarke, a counterterrorism analyst at the Soufan Center told The New York Times.
Al-Masri, who was about 58 had featured in the FBI’s most wanted list for a long time and had a $10 million bounty on his head at the time of his murder.
He was also one of Al Qaeda’s founding leaders and was considered to be first in line to lead the terrorist organization if anything happened to its current leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.
According to a highly classified U.S. National Counterterrorism Center document, Al-Masri was the “most experienced and capable operational planner not in U.S. or allied custody.”
The document described him as the “former chief of training”.
Al Masri had also mentored Hamza bin Laden, who later became his son in law.
Hamza bin Laden was allegedly killed on September 14, 2019 by a US counterterrorism operation in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.
The killing of Al Masri reflect’s a typical Mossad hit job’s modus operandi. Mossad has previously assassinated nuclear scientists in Iran.
The Iranian government denied the story and claimed that no Al Qaeda operative lives in Iran.