US says al-Qaida terrorist has died of natural causes, apparently hepatitis

Abu Obeida al-Masri, an Egyptian al-Qaida chief believed responsible for attacks on US forces in Afghanistan, is dead, a US counterterror official said Wednesday. Al-Masri died of natural causes, apparently hepatitis, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. The official said al-Masri died within the last several months. In Pakistan, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Atjar Abbas said he had no information about the death of al-Masri. Several Pakistani intelligence officials contacted by The Associated Press had no immediate comment. Based in the mountainous Afghan province of Kunar, al-Masri was believed to have been in charge of planning attacks on US-led coalition forces in the volatile eastern region of the country. Violence in southern and eastern Afghanistan spiked last year, killing about 1,600 people. The attacks included a surge in suicide bombers, a change of tactics by the militants. The Pakistani government originally had believed al-Masri was killed a CIA Predator drone strike in 2006.