U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo charged on January 12 that Al-Qaeda has established a new home base in Iran.
With just eight days left in office for U.S. President Donald Trump, Pompeo alleged that Iran has given support to Al-Qaeda and safe haven to its leaders, despite some skepticism within the intelligence community and Congress. He did not provide hard evidence to back up his claims.
The New York Times reported in November 2020 that Al-Qaeda's Abu Muhammad al-Masri, accused of helping to mastermind the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, was shot dead by Israeli operatives in Iran. Iran denied the report, saying there were no Al-Qaeda militants on its soil.
Pompeo told a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington that he was announcing publicly for the first time that al-Masri died on August 7 last year.
Pompeo said his presence in Iran was no surprise, and added: "Al-Masri’s presence inside Iran points to the reason that we're here today.... Al-Qaeda has a new home base: it is the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Pompeo has accused Iran of links to Al-Qaeda in the past but has not provided concrete evidence.
Shi'ite Iran and Al-Qaeda, a Sunni Muslim group, have long been sectarian foes.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif dismissed Pompeo's accusations as "warmongering lies."
Throughout the Trump administration, Iran has been a target, and Pompeo has sought to further ratchet up pressure on Iran in recent weeks with more sanctions.
Advisers to President-elect Joe Biden believe Trump is trying to make it more difficult for the incoming administration to reengage with Iran and seek to rejoin a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that Washington abandoned in 2018.
Pompeo said he was imposing sanctions on Iran-based Al-Qaeda leaders and three leaders of Al-Qaeda Kurdish battalions.
He also announced a reward of up to $7 million for information leading to the location or identification of Iran-based Al-Qaeda leader Muhammad Abbatay -- also known as Abd al-Rahman al-Maghrebi.