07.21.15

Leader of Syria’s Militant Khorasan Group Killed in U.S. Airstrike

WASHINGTON—The leader of an al Qaeda offshoot in Syria accused of helping to plan attacks on American and European targets has been killed by a U.S. airstrike, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

The militant, identified as Muhsin al-Fadhli, was killed on July 8 when a U.S. strike hit a car traveling in northwestern Syria, said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

Mr. Fadhli, 34 years old, was said to be the leader of the so-called Khorasan group, a network of former al Qaeda militants that had reconstituted itself amid the instability of the Syrian civil war.

 

Before leading the group, the Kuwait-born Mr. Fadhli was said to have close ties to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and was believed to be among a small group of militants who knew about the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks before they were launched.

 

U.S. planes first began targeting the Khorasan Group last September when President Barack Obama expanded the American airstrike campaign from Iraq into Syria.

 

Some American officials characterized the group as an imminent threat to the U.S. But Syrian rebel groups challenged that view and accused the Pentagon of wrongly targeting militants with the Nusra Front, one of the major groups battling Islamic State and other forces for control in the region.

 

Last fall, James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, said that, “in terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State.”

 

American intelligence and military officials have been trying to target Mr. Fadhli for more than a decade.

 

He was involved in a 2002 attack in Kuwait that killed a U.S. Marine and the bombing a French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen the same year that killed one crew member, said Mr. Davis.

 

“His death will degrade and disrupt ongoing external operations of al Qaeda against the United States and our allies and partners,” said Mr. Davis.

 

Mr. Fadhli was part of the a Qaeda leadership based in Afghanistan who escaped into Iran after U.S. forces targeted Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks.

 

The U.S. offered a $7 million reward on Mr. Fadhli in 2012.

 

Lawmakers from both parties praised the U.S. strike as a significant blow to the extremist group.

 

Rep. Adam Schiff from California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, called Mr. Fadhli “a seasoned, knowledgeable and dangerous terrorist who actively sought to harm the U.S. and its allies.

 

His role “will not be easily filled,” said. Mr. Schiff. 


By:  Dion Nissenbaum
Source: Wall Street Journal