Washington [US], January 13 (ANI): US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Tuesday (local time) accused Iran of sheltering al-Qaeda asserting that the middle eastern country has become a new "home base" for the terror outfit. He also confirmed that Al-Qaeda's second-in-command Abu Muhammad al-Masri was killed in Tehran last year.
In a speech at the National Press Club here, Pompeo said that al-Qaeda has a "new home base - it is the Islamic Republic of Iran".
He said, "We ignored this Iran-al-Qaeda nexus at our own peril. We need to acknowledge it, we must confront it, indeed, we must defeat it."
He further said, "They are partners in terrorism, partners in hate. This axis poses a grave threat to the security of nations and to the American homeland itself."
"I would say Iran is, indeed, the new Afghanistan - as the key geographic hub for al-Qaeda - but it's actually worse...Unlike in Afghanistan, when al-Qaeda was hiding in the mountains, al-Qaida today is operating underneath the hard shell of the Iranian regime's protection," he added.
During the briefing, he announced sanctions on Iran-based al-Qaida leaders Sultan Yusuf Hasan al-Arif and Muhammad Abbatay, also known as Abd al-Rahman al-Maghrebi.
He offered a reward of up to USD 7 million for information that leads to the location or identification of al-Maghrebi.
The Secretary also confirmed media reports of al-Masri in Tehran on August 7 last year.
He further said that Iran became the "perfect choice" for al-Qaeda after 9/11.
"Iran decided to allow al-Qaeda to establish a new operational headquarters, on the condition that al-Qaeda operatives abide by the regime's rules governing al-Qaeda's stay inside the country," he said.
He quoted a letter from late al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, found by the Navy SEALS during the Abbottabad raid, as saying, "Iran is our main artery for funds, personnel, and communication...There is no need to fight with Iran unless you are forced to".
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Pompeo "is pathetically ending his disastrous career with more warmongering lies".
"No one is fooled," Zarif wrote, noting that hijackers from the September 11, 2001 attacks came from Pompeo's "favourite" countries rather than Iran. Fifteen of the 19 assailants were Saudis.
"From designating Cuba to fictitious Iran "declassifications" and AQ claims, Mr. "we lie, cheat, steal" is pathetically ending his disastrous career with more warmongering lies, Zarif posted on Twitter. (ANI)