09.23.14

New York Times: In Airstrikes, U.S. Targets Militant Cell Said to Plot an Attack Against the West

Peter Baker reports on U.S. airstrikes against ISIL and Khorasan.

American forces took advantage of the airstrikes against the Islamic State extremist group in Syria to try to simultaneously wipe out the leadership of an unrelated cell of veterans of Al Qaeda that the White House said Tuesday was plotting an “imminent” attack against the United States or Europe.

The barrage of bombs and missiles launched into Syria early Tuesday was aimed primarily at crippling the Islamic State, the formidable Sunni organization that has seized a large piece of territory to form its own radical enclave. But the blitz also targeted a little-known network called Khorasan, in hopes of paralyzing it before it could carry out what American officials feared would be a terrorist attack in the West.

The strikes on Tuesday were aimed at the group’s leaders, including Mr. Fadhli, a Kuwaiti associate of Bin Laden’s who moved to Syria last year. Officials said they were not certain if he had been killed, but Twitter accounts associated with jihadist groups said that he and another Khorasan leader, Abu Yusef al-Turki, had died in the airstrikes.

One Twitter user said that by killing Mr. Fadhli, the United States had “presented him a great wish and a most honorable gift” of martyrdom, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant groups’ social media postings.

Lawmakers and terrorism experts said that even if Mr. Fadhli had been killed, it would not necessarily derail the group’s ambitions. “Fadhli is certainly one of the most capable of the Al Qaeda core members,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “His loss would be significant, but as we’ve seen before, any decapitation is only a short-term gain. The hydra will grow another head.”

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By:  Peter Baker
Source: New York Times