US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday, without providing hard evidence, that al Qaeda had established a new home base in Iran.
The US top diplomat told at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington that he was announcing publicly for the first time that al-Masri died on August 7 last year, reports Reuters.
Pompeo said his presence in Iran was no surprise, and added: “Al-Masri’s presence inside Iran points to the reason that we’re here today ... Al-Qaeda has a new home base: it is the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
He said the United States had fewer options in dealing with the group now it was “burrowed inside” that country.
According to a recent report, Al Qaeda’s Abu Muhammad al-Masri, accused of helping to mastermind the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa, was gunned down by Israeli operatives in Iran. Iran denied the report, saying there were no al Qaeda “terrorists” on its soil.
However, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday rejected the assertion by Mike Pompeo as “warmongering lies”.
“(With) fictitious Iran ‘declassifications’ and AQ (al Qaeda) claims, (Pompeo) is pathetically ending his disastrous career with more warmongering lies,” Zarif tweeted.
“No one is fooled. All 9/11 terrorists came from @SecPompeo’s favourite ME destinations; NONE from Iran,” Zarif said.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said: “Iran has been a victim of US state terrorism and affiliated groups for years and has had a clear ...record in the fight against al Qaeda and Islamic State,” state media reported.
Iran’s state religion is Shi’ite Islam, and the country views itself as a sworn enemy of Sunni Islamist militant groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda. However, US officials have accused it in the past of providing shelter to some al Qaeda figures.