Al-Qaeda's chemical weapons expert, Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar AKA Abu Khabab al-Masri, was killed in a US missile strike which left at least six people dead. The target appears to have been a house near a mosque in the village of Azam Warsak in south Waziristan.
Abu Khabab al-Masri is a 55 year-old Egyptian, considered to be one of Al-Qaeda's most senior operational figures in Afghanistan. He served time in prison in the early 1980s as one of the hundreds of people who were charged with conspiracy in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. He left Egypt to join the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan and was injured in 1988 in an explosion while experimenting with chemicals.
Later on, he operated one of Al-Qaeda's training camps in Derunta, Afghanistan, providing hundreds of militants with hands-on training in the use of poisons and explosives. He is believed to have overseen a project for Al-Qaeda which included research into chemical and biological weapons. It seems that within that project he also conducted a variety of experiments, including exposing dogs to cyanide.
His death is another significant loss for Al-Qaeda, and one that could hurt the operational capablities of the organization in Afghanistan, at least in the short run. The loss of Abu Khabab's knowledge and experience in training and using of chemicals and biological weapons will no doubt present Al-Qaeda with a major setback on that front. However, the organization has already overcomed other significant losses of senior figures in its chain of command and has proven time and time again its ability to find suitable replacements to carry on Al-Qaeda's operational plans.
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