Pompeo confirms death of Al Qaeda second-in-command in Tehran last August
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday for the first time confirmed the death of Al Qaeda’s number two, who in August was gunned down on a street in Iran’s capital Tehran, and claimed that the country is allowing the terrorist group to operate there.
On November 14, The New York Times reported that Israeli agents carried out August 7 assassination of Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, also known as Abu Muhammad al-Masri, for the United States. He sat on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist list and had been indicted for U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Iran denied that the Al Qaeda leader was killed in Tehran, saying there wasn’t “any presence” of the terrorist group’s operatives in their country.
It was at the beginning of his Tuesday speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. that Pompeo publicly confirmed the death of Abdullah, however, he didn’t say who was behind the assassination.
“Today, I can confirm for the first time his death on August 7th of last year,” the top U.S. diplomat said.
Pompeo then pointed to Abdullah’s presence in Iran as indication of a wider Al Qaeda presence in the country.
“Al Qaeda has a new home base: it is the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he claimed. “We ignore this Iran-Al Qaeda nexus at our own peril.”
The secretary of state also said the U.S. now believes Iran is shielding Al Qaeda by giving the group more freedom of movement and letting it establish an operational headquarters. He said this has given the group new time and resources to fundraise and plan new attacks.
“Al-Qaeda now has time, because they’re inside Iran they have money,” Pompeo asserted. “They now have new tools for terror.”
“Iran decided to allow al Qaeda to establish a new operational headquarters, on the condition that Al Qaeda operatives inside abide by the regime’s rules governing Al Qaeda’s stay inside the country,” Pompeo also claimed.
He alleged that the country’s ministry of intelligence and security as well as other agencies have supplied “safe havens and logistical support,” such as ID cards and passports, that facilitate Al Qaeda activity. “As a result of this assistance, Al Qaeda has centralized its leadership inside Tehran,” he said.
In response to Pompeo’s remarks, Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif denied the claims the top U.S. diplomat made.
“From designating Cuba to fictitious Iran ‘declassifications’ and AQ claims, Mr. ‘we lie, cheat, steal’ is pathetically ending his disastrous career with more warmongering lies,” Zarif tweeted Tuesday.
“No one is fooled. All 9/11 terrorists came from @SecPompeo’s favorite ME destinations; NONE from Iran,” the foreign minister also claimed.
Pompeo’s speech comes about a week before President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office. The departing Secretary of State and others in the Trump administration have vocalized their opposition to Biden’s plans to reenter nuclear talks with Iran.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.