Iran has disputed a recent report in The New York Times that a senior Al-Qaeda leader was killed in its capital Tehran three months ago by two Israeli assassins, stating that it had no Al-Qaeda terrorists in its country.
On Saturday the Times said Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, also known as Abu Muhammad Al-Masri, the terrorist group's second-in-command was shot dead on 7 August along with his daughter in the streets by the assassins on a motorbike, allegedly at the behest of the US.
According to US intelligence officials he had been in Iran's "custody" since 2003, but that he had been living freely in the upscale Pasdaran district of Tehran since at least 2015. Although the Sunni jihadist organisation has been vehemently opposed to the Shia theocracy of Iran and have fought against it in regional conflicts, the report explained that it is plausible that by keeping Al-Qaeda officials in Tehran, Iran might receive some "insurance" that the group would not conduct operations within its borders or to run operations against the US.
However hours after the report, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh dismissed the claims as "Hollywood-style scenario-making" by US and Israeli officials.
"In order to dodge responsibility for the criminal activities of this group and other terrorist groups in the region, Washington and Tel Aviv from time to time try to paint Iran as being tied to these groups through weaving lies and leaking fabricated information to the media," he said.
"This approach has become a perennial trend under the current US administration, and the White House has tried to make strides in its Iranophobia scheme through repeating such allegations," Khatibzadeh added.
Iranian media instead identified the victims as Lebanese history Professor Habib Daoud and his daughter Maryam with a Lebanese news channel and a number of unofficial social media accounts in Iran claiming Daoud was a member of Hezbollah although the Times article cast doubt over the veracity of the story.
Al-Masri was one of Al-Qaeda's founding members and was thought to be first in line to lead the organisation after its current leader, Ayman Al-Zawahri who succeeded Osama Bin Laden since June 2011 following his death. Al-Masri's daughter Maryam was the widow of Bin Laden's son Hamza. There have been unconfirmed reports that Al-Zawahiri died last month due to natural causes.