US intelligence reports believe Mustafa Abu al-Yazid has been killed in a predator drone attack

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."

SOURCE: The Washington Post