U.S. airstrikes kill senior al Qaeda operative

President Trump will emphasize the war on terror tonight -- and he will be able to claim the head of the number two leader of al Qaeda. 

There is only one known picture of Abu al-Khayr al-Masri -- which helps explain why he survived for so long as one of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders.

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U.S. officials said Abu al-Khayr al-Masri, a senior leader in al Qaeda, was killed by an air strike in Syria.  CBS News

But his string ran out on Sunday, when, according to U.S. officials, a CIA drone strike scored a direct hit on his car in northwestern Syria. 

A son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, al-Masri has been implicated in the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in Africa, which killed more than 200 people. 

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U.S. officials said one of Osama bin Laden’s sons-in-law, Abu al-Khayr al-Masri, was killed by an airstrike  CBS News

Al-Masri, the name means he’s from Egypt, was a long time confident of another Egyptian, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who became the leader of al Qaeda after bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy seals. In the years after 9/11, al-Masri fled to Iran where he reportedly spent a decade under house arrest, but also beyond the reach of American drone strikes. After his release, he went to Syria, where al Qaeda has been attempting to take advantage of the chaos caused by the civil war to establish a new base of operations.

Al-Masri was back in business, but also back in range of drone strikes -- and on Sunday the CIA found him one last time.

ISIS is the main target, but now drones have also killed about ten senior al Qaeda operations in the two and a half years since the U.S. began conducting strikes in Syria.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.