17:54 GMT 12.01.2021
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday accused Iran of harboring al-Qaeda (a terrorist organization banned in Russia) and for the first time publicly confirmed the death of the group's high-ranking member Abu Muhammad al-Masri in Tehran.
"Al-Qaeda has a new home base - it is the Islamic Republic of Iran," Pompeo said speaking at the National Press Club. "We ignored this Iran-al-Qaeda nexus at our own peril. We need to acknowledge it, we must confront it, indeed, we must defeat it."
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a news conference following a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia September 24, 2020
Iran's Zarif Rejects Pompeo's Accusations of Iranian Ties With Al-Qaeda as 'Fictitious'
He confirmed media reports of al-Masri's death in Tehran on 7 August, but provided no additional details. The second-highest al-Qaeda operative was linked to terror attacks that claimed about 200 lives, including the 1998 bombings of US diplomatic missions in Kenya and Tanzania. The New York Times said that al-Masri was killed by Israeli agents.
According to Pompeo, al-Qaeda operatives found a refuge in Iran following the 9/11 terrorist attacks which prompted the US to start chasing them globally, but were initially put under "virtual house arrest."
"Indeed, everything changed in 2015, the same year that the Obama administration and the E-3, France, Germany, Britain, were in the middle of finalizing the JCPOA [Iranian nuclear deal]," Pompeo said. "Iran decided to allow al-Qaeda to establish a new operational headquarters on the condition that al-Qaeda operatives abide by the regime's rules, governing al-Qaeda's stay inside the country."
Pompeo alleged that since 2015, Iran has given al-Qaeda leadership greater freedom of movement.
"The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the IRGC have provided safe havens and logistical support, things like travel documents, ID cards, passports, that enable al-Qaeda activity," he added. "As a result of assistance al-Qaeda has centralized its leadership inside of Tehran."
He announced sanctions against two allegedly Iran-based al-Qaeda leaders, Muhammad Abbatay (also known as Abd al-Rahman al-Maghrebi) and Sultan Yusuf Hasan al-'Arif, as well as Isma'il Fu'ad Rasul Ahmed, Fuad Ahmad Nuri Ali al-Shakhan, and Niamat Hama Rahim Hama Sharif, three commanders of al-Qaeda Kurdish Battalions" that operate on a border between Iran and Iraq.
Pompeo also offered a reward of up to $7 million under the State Department's 'Rewards for Justice' Program for information that leads to location or identification of Al-Maghrebi.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif responded via Twitter that Pompeo "is pathetically ending his disastrous career with more warmongering lies." He lie, cheat, steal."
Al Qaeda are Sunni Muslims.
Iran are regional protector of Shia Muslims from Sunnis.
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