Al Qaida leader assassinated in Lebanon; PLO blames Israel

Monday, March 3, 2003

NICOSIA The head of Al Qaida in Lebanon has been killed.

Abu Mohammed Al Masri was killed in an explosion in the Ein Hilwe camp near Sidon. The explosion destroyed a booby-trapped car and was detonated by a remote control device on early Saturday, Middle East Newsline reported.

PLO officials blamed Israel's Mossad spy agency for the assassination of Al Masri, regarded as the head of Al Qaida in Lebanon,.

They said an Israeli aircraft was seen flying over Ein Hilwe earlier on Saturday.

[On Sunday, Pakistan reported the capture of Al Qaida operations chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.]

Al Masri was an Egyptian national also known as Mahmhoud Al Bakri. Palestinian sources said Al Masri, who came to Ein Hilwe in 1997, was killed as he opened his store on early Saturday.

Western intelligence sources said Al Masri was the head of Usbat Al Ansar. The group is aligned with Al Qaida and has harbored followers of Osama Bin Laden who had fled Afghanistan last year.

Israel had accused Al Masri of being a key member of an Al Qaida cell that sought to attack Israeli and U.S. targets in Jordan in 1999. The plot was foiled by Jordanian authorities.

An unknown group claimed responsibility for the attack. The group, Youth of the Armed Struggle, said Al Masri was responsible for a series of bombings in Ein Hilwe.

"We decided to cut off the head of the snake in a first step that the Youth of the Armed Struggle will take to cleanse the camp of all suspect elements that were planted in the camp, and which started to sabotage camp security," the group said in a statement.

On Thursday, Nimr Nur Eddin, head of the Hizbullah security branch in Beirut, was killed by a Lebanese national, the group said in a statement. Hizbullah said a young Lebanese man shot Nur Eddin with a rifle after he was refused entry into Hizbullah.

The assassin was identified as Yusef Mohammed Murad, 29, who lived in the village of Majdal Zoun in southern Lebanon. Hizbullah has detained the man,

who was described as having tried to enter the group for nearly a decade. The statement said Nur Eddin was killed on late Thursday in his apartment in southern Beirut suburb of Bir El Hassan. He was buried the following day.

The killing came amid increased unrest in Lebanon. On Saturday, thousands of Lebanese tried to march on the U.S. embassy north of Beirut. Lebanese security forces were summoned and prevented the demonstrators from advancing. Scuffles erupted as the demonstrators tried to enter the embassy compound.

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