Reuters reports, on the authority of a Pakistani security official, that an “Abu Saeed al-Masri” was killed. The official said Masri is “among the top leadership of al Qaeda.” The identity of Masri is unknown, but the news media is claiming that it’s Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, a close Egyptian friend of Zawahiri’s from the Sadat assassination days (Long War and CT Blog have good summaries of the news).
If true, it is horrible news for al-Qaeda. Abu al-Yazid is the head of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and one of the few public faces of the organization (he sometimes gets the job of announcing the death of AQ operatives killed in Afghanistan). Moreover, it comes after a string of successful strikes on high-profile al-Qaeda leaders this year: Abu Layth al-Libi, Abu Sulayman al-Jaza’iri, and Abu Khabab. Of course, there are other capable leaders waiting in the wings, but don’t underestimate the damage these deaths cause. It is sending AQ Central back to 2003.
To get a spatial and chronological sense of what is happening, I’ve put together a map of the 2008 killings based on Bill Roggio’s nice summary of the information. The marks for al-Jaza’iri and Abu Khabab are accurate since we know where they died; for Libi and Abu al-Yazid (if dead), all we know is the province.