US military drone
The US Department of Defence said it launched the air strikes in Syria on 3 and 4 February Reuters

The US air strikes have killed a senior al-Qaeda militant who was once a close ally of Osama bin Laden, says Pentagon.

Including the top militant, 11 al-Qaeda Islamists were killed in the two strikes in Syria's Idlib province.

The targeted operation was carried out by an unmanned drone, said the US military. The US Defense Department said Abu Hani al-Masri, a longtime ally of slain leader bin Laden and the current chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed when the drones pounded the targets on 3 and 4 February. Al-Masri, an Egyptian national, was thought to have been about 65 years old.

"These strikes disrupt al-Qaeda's ability to plot and direct external attacks targeting the US and our interests worldwide," said Jeff Davis, a spokesperson for the Pentagon.

Al-Masri is believed to have been behind multiple terror attacks – both the successful and foiled ones. He was also among the inner circle of the extremist unit, which is closely linked to bin Laden. It is reported that al-Masri had set up training camps in Afghanistan during the Islamist insurgency in 80s and 90s.

A Defense Department spokesperson, Eric Pahon told the CNN that the killed commander was a "legacy al-Qaeda terrorist".

The US military is known to have targeted leaders of al-Qaeda in Syria. The group usually operates in the war-torn country using its affiliate jihadist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly called the al-Nusra Front.