US Drone Strike Kills Top al-Qaeda Figure in Syria

Some Claim Slain al-Masri Is Organization's Number Two

A US drone strike against Syria’s Idlib Province has killed a top al-Qaeda figure, Abu al-Khayr al-Masri. A close aide to Ayman al-Zawahiri, and a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden. Masri’s death has been confirmed by top jihadist figures in Idlib.

This incident is the second time the US has killed a figure in the al-Qaeda parent organization this month in Idlib, having killed the similarly-named but unrelated Abu Hani al-Masri earlier this month. Despite nominally no longer being an affiliate of al-Qaeda, the Nusra Front is among the largest al-Qaeda factions in the world, and controls most of Idlib Province.

The US had long left Nusra alone in strikes on Syria, and had publicly complained about Russian airstrikes against Nusra targets inside the city of Aleppo. Though the US strikes in Syria still largely focus on ISIS, they are no longer shying away from Nusra targets.

The importance of Masri’s death is being hyped by some as the biggest death in al-Qaeda since Osama bin Laden. It should be noted, however, that since bin Laden’s death many high-profile al-Qaeda figures have been claimed to be the organization’s “number two” man behind Zawahiri, and the fact that the same thing is happening this time doesn’t necessarily mean it is the case.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.