An attack in Syria by US forces has purportedly led to the death of a top al-Qaeda commander. News of his killing was spread on social media accounts and jihadist groups, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, the US-based terrorism-tracking website.

An Egyptian jihadist, Sherif Hazzaa believed that al-Masri had been killed, reporting on Twitter: "He told me days ago: I do not carry my gun because I'm expecting to be targeted by a plane."

Social media posts purportedly showed photographs of the vehicle that al-Masri was driving in when he was hit by the US drone strike.

The image shows a car with a massive hole in the roof on the driver's side, wrecking the vehicle. One bodyguard was also said to have been killed in the attack.

Local media said Fatah al-Sham, the former Al-Nusra front, confirmed the identity of Al-Masri on Monday (27 February) after the US Defense Department said they had led an attack in northwest Syria but without giving further details on the identity of the intended target.

UK-based watchdog Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported al-Masri's death. The report has not been officially confirmed yet by the US or al-Qaeda, according to the Telegraph.

Al-Masri was married to one of Osama bin Laden's daughters and also owned a hotel in Afghanistan from where the 9/11 attacks were allegedly planned, said the Soufan Group intelligence group.

"[His] significance in terms of his direct connection to the core of al-Qaeda and to some of its more infamous attacks is difficult to overstate," the group said.

The 59-year-old Egyptian national, the deputy of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Syria was also implicated in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in which more than 200 people died.

Hisham al-Hashimi, a Baghdad-based writer on Islamic groups, said that if al-Masri is dead, it was a major setback to al-Qaeda. "His death is no less significant than that of Bin Laden [who was killed by a US raid in Pakistan in May 2011]," Hashimi told the Guardian. "He was the ideological leader of the group in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and the number two in the organisation overall."