AQ's #3 applies for his 72 virgins

The US has apparently killed a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda leadership, one who acted as a conduit to Osama bin Laden and to the operational networks launching terrorist attacks.  Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, AKA Sheik Saeed al-Masri, reportedly met the business end of a Predator drone missile in the last two weeks:

Al-Qaeda’s third-ranking operative, an Egyptian who was a founding member of the terrorist network and a key conduit to Osama bin Laden, has been killed in Pakistan, according to a statement Monday from al-Qaeda that U.S. intelligence officials believe is accurate.

A U.S. official said there is “strong reason” to believe that Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, known as Sheik Saeed al-Masri, apparently was killed by a CIA drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal belt within the past two weeks.

The official described it as a significant victory against the terrorist group.

“Al-Masri was the group’s chief operating officer, with a hand in everything from finances to operational planning,” the official said. “He was also the organization’s prime conduit to bin Laden and Zawahiri,” he added, referring to al-Qaeda’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri. “He was key to al-Qaeda’s command and control.”

Yazid, 54, was an original member of al-Qaeda’s Shura leadership council, an al-Qaeda commander for Afghanistan and served as an adviser to bin Laden for more than 15 years. More recently, he was the group’s chief organizational manager, in charge of finances and logistics, as well as a liaison to the Taliban and other extremist groups.

Don’t get too celebratory, at least not yet.  There are a number of such reports that have arisen over the last several months about supposed Predator successes that turned out to be false.  Baitullah Mehsud had been pronounced dead a couple of times before actually reaching room temperature, and we thought Hakimullah Mehsud was similarly chilled before the botched Times Square terrorist attack.

If Yazid has gone on to his 72 virgins, it’s a big win for the US.  It will disrupt communications at least for a while between the AQ network and its nominal leadership — and especially its cash.  Bin Laden and Zawahiri may not run the network in the same sense that the Mehsuds run the Pakistani Taliban, which operate as a military force and social movement rather than a decentralized set of cells operating on their own plots and plans, but they still need the money flowing through that network.  If Yazid had that job, it may take Zawahiri and bin Laden weeks or months to pick up the pieces.

Meanwhile, closer to home, it looks like the US no-fly list caught someone from entering the US:

Canadian authorities identified Monday a man arrested on an Aeromexico flight from Paris to Mexico that was forced to divert to Montreal after U.S. authorities refused to let the plane use U.S. airspace.

Abdirahman Ali Gaal was arrested Sunday at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, said Robert Gervais, an Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada spokesman. He was taken off and arrested under an outstanding warrant.

Gervais said details of the arrest would be made public at Gaal’s detention review hearing on Wednesday.

The Canada Border Services Agency confirmed Monday the passenger was on a U.S. no-fly list and said the man was known to them.

The man didn’t protest, offering a “wry smile” instead when approached by police, according to witnesses.  Gaal is reportedly Somalian, and perhaps not coincidentally, CTV reports that the US has a watch out for certain Somalis attempting to enter the country:

In what may be a related incident, authorities in the United States are currently on the lookout for a Somalian man with ties to an Islamist terror group who may be trying to enter the United States from Mexico.

Earlier this month, evidence surfaced in a Texas court of a human smuggling ring that snuck East Africans across the Mexican-U.S. border.

Among those smuggled across were several Somalis thought to have ties to terrorist groups.

Somalia has been in a protracted state of lawlessness since 1991. Recent conflict there has pitted hardline Islamists against pro-government forces backed by the United States.

The Islamist group that most concerns western intelligence agencies is Al-Shabaab, which declared allegiance to al Qaeda in 2009 and was added to Canada’s list of proscribed terror groups in March.

It is feared Al-Shabaab is radicalizing the Somalian diaspora and using it to raise funds for terrorist activities.

It’s a good reminder that even if we got Yazid and it disables AQ for a while, the plots in motion before Yazid’s demise are still very much alive themselves.