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Al-Qa'ida leader dead, US claims

Published 10/04/2008

An alleged al-Qa'ida leader blamed for helping plot and orchestrate the July 7 London bombings in 2005 and a failed attack to destroy commercial planes has died in Pakistan, the Bush administration claimed yesterday.

An American counter-terrorism official, who refused to be identified, said that Abu Ubaida al-Masri, a former aide to Osama bin Laden, was believed to have died of hepatitis.

"The sense is that he is dead. He was a major operational figure," the official claimed. "He was someone... who had ties to operations outside of the south Asia region. Al-Qa'ida lost something when this man died."

Masri, a pseudonym, had been blamed for helping recruit, train and direct the cell of British Muslims that carried out the 2005 bomb attacks in London, which killed 52 people.

The Egyptian has twice before been declared to be dead after attempts to kill him. His first escape came after a US missile was fired at the village of Damadola in January 2006. It killed 18 people, including four alleged al-Qa'ida operatives, along with women and children. In the second, Pakistani helicopters attacked a religious school in the same area in October that year, killing a further 80 people.

Last week, it was reported that Masri was teaching bomb-making techniques to would-be suicide bombers in the North Waziristan area of Pakistan.

The official said Masri died in the past few months, but did not say where.

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