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Abu Khabab al-Masri: Unconfirmed Kill In Pakistan

This is not the first time, but it is being reported that Abu Khabab al-Masri, al-Qaeda’s chief bomb maker and chemical weapons expert, has been killed in a missile strike inside Pakistan.

An al-Qaeda expert in chemical and biological weapons was the target of a missile attack just inside Pakistan that killed three men and three boys on Monday, security officials said.

Unconfirmed reports said Egyptian-born Midhat Mursi al Sayid Umar was killed by missiles fired from an unmanned U.S. Predator aircraft overnight along the border with Afghanistan. The U.S. has long had a $5 million bounty on his head.

Four missiles reportedly were fired on a religious school and nearby home.

Speculation of this sort on al-Masri has been made before (see our own headline in January, 2006) and while we can remain ever hopeful that this man has exchanged oxygen for the last time, our friend Andy Cochran at the Counterterrorism Blog makes the wisest observation in caution we’ve seen yet.

Furthermore, as the London Times notes, “The attack came just before Yousaf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister, was due to meet President Bush in Washington for talks focusing on co-operation in the War on Terror.” That raises the possibility of a politically motivated announcement of the death of a senior AQ leader, and that has happened before also.

We’ll keep an eye and an ear out for confirmation, but for now, understand clearly that this is not confirmed. Yet.

UPDATE: AQ Confirms: Bomb and Chemical Expert al-Masri Dead - ThreatsWatch