Mustafa Ahmed Muhammad Uthman Abu al Yazid travelled under various names (including his most popular, al Masri, "the Egyptian") and eluded death on a number of occasions. Recognised as being one of the founding members of al Qa'eda and the commander of its operations in Afghanistan since 2007, he held a position considered to be pivotal to the planning and execution of militant attacks worldwide.
Said to have direct access to Osama bin Laden and Dr Ayman al Zawahiri, as well as the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, he was believed to have played a significant role in organising the financing of the September 2001 attacks on the United States. "If you met him, you would never believe he is a militant. He is a very, very quiet person," was the opinion of Yasser al Sirri, a fellow Egyptian in charge of the Islamic Observatory Centre for Human Rights in London.
Despite appearances, however, al Yazid was a considerable force for Islamist fundamentalism and contributed significantly to the rise of terrorist activities in his capacity as the third-in-command in the al Qa'eda network. Born in 1955 in al Sharqiyah governorate of Egypt, he became a member of the country's radical Islamist movement as a young man. His later role as the chief financial officer for al Qa'eda hinted at some prior schooling in economics or business management, as did his involvement in the funding of the September 11 attacks. When bin Laden moved to Sudan after Operation Desert Storm in 1991, al Yazid accompanied him, serving as the accountant for his business interests in Khartoum. He subsequently followed the al Qa'eda leader back to Afghanistan in 1996.
Although his exact role is unknown, he played a part in the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981 and spent three years in prison as a consequence (his name was also associated with the failed attempt to assassinate Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa in 1995). Shortly afterwards, he joined Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Convicted and sentenced to death in Egypt on various counts in absentia, he left his homeland for Afghanistan in 1988, as did so many other Egyptian Islamists, and joined "the Afghan Arabs" in Afghanistan. He aided in the founding of al Qa'eda that same year.
As recently as April 26, he posted a message eulogising al Qa'eda's two top leaders in Iraq, who had been killed that month. He was killed in a US drone attack in Pakistan along with his wife and three children. Born on December 17, 1955; died on May 21. * The National