Thirwat Shihata, a 53-year old wanted al Qaeda terrorist close to Ayman al-Zawahiri, is reported by US intelligence sources to have left Iran where he received sanctuary for the past decade and traveled to Libya. Shihata is described as one of the top most dangerous 13 al Qaeda members sought by the US, and among the last members of al-Qaeda’s old guard. DEBKAfile adds: Western counterterrorist experts have always been baffled by Iran’s readiness to grant asylum to dozens of al Qaeda fighters, including senor personnel, after the 9/11 attacks on America. Tehran gave some the freedom to come and go for terrorist operations outside Iran. A US document leaked by whistleblower Edward Showden described Shihata as an “experienced operational planner” and “respected among al-Qaeda rank and file.”