Al Qa'eda chief killed in drone attack

Al Qa'eda has announced the death of Mustafa Abu al Yazid, its number three leader and Osama bin Laden's one-time top money man.

Al Qa'eda has announced the death of Mustafa Abu al Yazid, its number three leader and Osama bin Laden's one-time top money man, in what would be a major blow to the global terror network. US monitoring groups said the death of Yazid, who was the leader of al Qa'eda in Afghanistan and its liaison with the Taliban for three years, was announced by the group in a message to jihadist websites on Monday.

"We have strong reason to believe that's true, and that (Yazid) was killed recently in Pakistan's tribal areas," a US official said. "In terms of counterterrorism, this would be a big victory." Yazid, one of a number of Egyptians in the higher echelons of al Qa'eda, was a founding member of the network and a former treasurer to bin Laden who was accused of channelling money to some of the September 11 hijackers.

Yazid, also known as Sheikh Said al Masri, would be one of the top al Qa'eda leaders to be killed since US President Barack Obama took office in January last year. "Al Masri was the group's chief operating officer, with a hand in everything from finances to operational planning," the US official said. "He was also the organisation's prime conduit to bin Laden and Zawahiri," he said referring to al Qa'eda number two and fellow Egyptian Ayman al Zawahiri. "He was key to Al Qa'eda's command and control."

The al Qa'eda message carried by the SITE group that monitors Islamist websites did not give details about the circumstances of the death of Yazid other than to speak of his "martyrdom". But it said the message posted on jihadist forums on May 31 said his wife, three of his daughters, his granddaughter, and other men, women and children were killed. "His death will only be a severe curse by his life upon the infidels. The response is near. That is sufficient," according to the message translated by SITE.

Some US media reports said Yazid was killed in a US drone strike in the tribal areas on the Afghan border, where the United States has been waging a covert drone war against militants in areas outside direct government control. "Though these terrorists remain extremely dangerous and determined to strike at the United States, the removal from the battlefield of top leaders like al Masri is further proof that the tribal areas are not quite the safe haven al Qa'eda and its allies thought them to be," the US official said.