The spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry has denied claims leveled in a Friday New York Times news report that Israeli assassins operating in Tehran killed a top al-Qaida figure this summer at the behest of the United States. Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Iran was not a haven for members of al-Qaida, stating on Saturday: “In order to shirk responsibility for the criminal activities of that group [al-Qaida] and other terrorist groups in the region, Washington and Tel Aviv try every now and then to draw a link between Iran and such groups through falsification and the leakage of fabricated information to the media.” The Times report identified the man gunned down as Abu Muhammad al-Masri, the second-highest-ranking figure in al-Qaida, saying he was killed along with his adult daughter – the widow of Osama bin Laden’s son – as they sat in a car on a Tehran street. Iranian news outlets reported at the time that there indeed had been a shooting, but identified the victim as a Lebanese history professor with ties to Hizbullah, and his daughter. Masri, whose real name is said to have been Abdullah Ahmad Abdullah, was wanted by the FBI in connection with the August 7, 1998, truck bombings of two US embassies, one in Nairobi, the other in Dar es Salaam, which killed a total of 224 people, the vast majority of the dead being in Kenya, where estimates of the wounded topped 4,000. The assassination in Tehran took place this past August 7. In his denial that the Islamic Republic harbors al-Qaida figures, Khatibzadeh added: “Such accusations are undoubtedly part of the full-fledged economic, intelligence and psychological war against the Iranian people, and the media should not act as a tribune for spreading the White House’s purposeful lies about Iran.”
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