Al-Qa'ida planner linked to UK plots 'is dead'

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The Independent Online

Senior al-Qa'ida planner Obaidah al Masri, considered a key suspect in the 2005 London subway and underground bombings and a foiled 2006 plot to blow up commercial airliners, is believed to have died, a US official said today.

"The sense is that he is dead," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. McClatchy newspapers reported that Masri died of hepatitis in Pakistan. The official said Masri appeared to have died of natural causes.

"He was a major operational figure," the US official said of al Masri, a pseudonym.

He confirmed that Masri was suspected in the plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic Ocean. The Washington Post in 2006 also said he was believed to be al-Qa'ida's conduit to British-Pakistani cells that carried out the 7 July attacks in London in 2005. The bombings killed 56 people.

"He was someone ... who had ties to operations outside of the South Asia region. Al-Qa'ida lost something when this man died," the US official said. However, he said, "They do have a regenerative capability."

He declined to discuss Masri's whereabouts when he died. Much of al-Qa'ida's key leadership is believed to be holed up in remote areas of Pakistan near the Afghanistan border.

Masri had been reported killed in a 2006 missile strike in Pakistan, and later that year escaped another missle strike in a different Pakistani village.