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Al-Qaeda Confirms No. 2 Leader Killed In U.S. Drone Strike

Fighters of the Syrian Islamist rebel group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the former Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, walk along a sand barricade in southwestern Aleppo in August 2016.

Al-Qaeda confirmed on March 2 that a U.S.-led coalition drone strike killed its No. 2 leader, Abu al-Khayr al-Masri, in Syria.

A statement issued by the militant group's Maghreb and Arabian Peninsula branches said he died a "hero" in a "treacherous" drone strike it called a "new crime by America and the crusader coalition."

Egyptian-born Masri, 59, a longtime operative, was second in command to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri and viewed as "jihadi royalty."

U.S. officials said a Hellfire missile fired by a CIA drone killed Musri on February 26 while he was riding in a car near the northwest Syrian city of Idlib. Idlib is a stronghold of Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, Nusra Front, also known as Fateh al-Sham Front.

Masri, also known as Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abdulrahman, was the son-in-law of Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and a member of Al-Qaeda's shura council.

Masri sought refuge in Iran after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. He had been hunted by U.S. forces for almost 19 years.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters