Cairo, Egypt Al-Qaida confirmed in a Web statement Sunday the death of a senior commander known as a top explosives and poisons expert, who is believed to have been killed in a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan last week.
The statement said Abu Khabab al-Masri and three other commanders were killed. It did not give details on when or how they were killed, but Pakistani authorities have said they believe al-Masri died in an American airstrike last Monday on a compound near the Afghan border.
Al-Masri, an Egyptian militant whose real name is Midhat Mursi, had a $5 million bounty on his head from the United States. He is accused of training terrorists to use poisons and explosives, and is believed to have trained suicide bombers who killed 17 American sailors on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.
He is also believed to have helped run al-Qaida's Darunta training camp in eastern Afghanistan, until the camp was abandoned amid the 2001 U.S. invasion of the country. There he is thought to have conducted experiments in chemical and biological weapons, testing materials on dogs.
The al-Qaida statement warned of vengeance for their deaths. "We tell the enemies of God that God has saved those who will be even more painful for you," it said. "As Abu Khabab has gone, he left behind, with God's grace, a generation of faithful students who will make you suffer the worst torture and avenge him and his brothers."
The other three slain leaders were identified as Abu Mohammed Ibrahim bin Abi Farag al-Masri, Abdul-Wahab al-Masri and Abu Islam al-Masri. Little is known about them.
CBS News reported Friday that al-Qaida's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, was killed or critically injured in the strike. CBS said it had obtained a copy of an intercepted letter dated July 29 from unnamed sources in Pakistan in which a Taliban leader urgently requested a doctor to treat Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant.
A Taliban spokesman, Maulvi Umar, denied the report. Pakistan army and intelligence officials said they had no information that al-Zawahri was hit.