Senior al-Qaida planner Abu Obeida al-Masri, believed to be a key figure in the 2005 London subway and bus bombings and a foiled 2006 plot to blow up commercial airliners, has died of hepatitis, intelligence sources told NBC News on Wednesday.
"Al-Qaida held off on announcing his death hoping they could claim he had died in a martyrdom operation but none materialized," the sources said.
The network's third-in-command died a few months ago in Pakistan, the sources said, adding that he had already been replaced by another Egyptian, Sheikh Sayed al-Masri, who was in charge of al-Qaida finances. Al-Masri means 'the Egyptian' in Arabic.
Based in the mountainous Afghan province of Kunar, al-Masri was believed to have been in charge of planning attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces in the volatile east region of the country. Violence in southern and eastern Afghanistan spiked last year, leaving about 1,600 people dead, including a surge in suicide attacks — a change of tactics by the militants.
The Pakistani government originally had believed al-Masri was killed a CIA Predator strike in 2006.