A Hellfire missile fired by a CIA drone has killed al-Qaeda leader Abu al-Khayr al-Masri while he was riding in a car near the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib, a United States intelligence official says.
The 59-year-old al-Masri, whose real name was Abdullah Muhab Rajab Abdulrahman, was second-in-command to the group's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and a member of its shura council, the official said.
He also was married to one of Osama bin Laden's daughters.
The official said Masri, as he was widely known, had sought refuge in Iran after the September 11 attacks on the US, and was believed to have been in Syria helping to direct Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, an al-Qaeda branch previously called the Nusra Front.
The Iranians released him from house arrest almost two years ago, in exchange for a diplomat being held hostage in Yemen by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
An Iranian diplomat held hostage in Yemen since 2013 returned home to Tehran in 2015 amid conflicting accounts of how he was freed from his unidentified abductors.
At the time Iran said the diplomat had been rescued by an Iranian intelligence operation in Yemen. But Yemeni media run by the Iran-allied Houthi group said the diplomat was freed in a prisoner exchange that took place in another country.
Masri's death on Sunday was the end of an almost 19-year US hunt, a second US official said
Masri was thought to be one of the planners of the 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.