The U.S. killed the leader of a network of al-Qaeda operatives in Syria intent on attacking Americans, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
“Muhsin al-Fadhli, a longtime al-Qaeda operative, was killed in a kinetic strike July 8 while traveling in a vehicle near Sarmada, Syria,” Captain Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement. “Al-Fadhli was the leader of a network of veteran al-Qaeda operatives, sometimes called the Khorasan Group, who are plotting external attacks against the United States and our allies.”
He was killed in a targeted drone strike, and the announcement of his death was withheld until his identification was reliably confirmed, according to a U.S. official who asked not to be identified discussing details of the strike.
Al-Fadhli was one of the few trusted al-Qaeda leaders who received advance word of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S., according to the announcement from the Pentagon. It said he also was involved in terrorist assaults in October 2002, including against U.S. Marines on Faylaka Island in Kuwait and on the French ship MV Limburg.
Last year, in the opening days of U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic State terrorists who seized a swath of Iraq and Syria, the U.S. said that it also had used Tomahawk missiles to strike the little-known faction it called the Khorasan Group.
While some experts on terrorism said they knew little about such an al-Qaeda faction or the threat it posed, U.S. intelligence officials said they viewed it as especially dangerous because it was focused on attacking America and Europe.
The group was said to have links to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s leading bomb designer in Yemen, Ibrahim al-Asiri, whose specialty is said to be explosives designed into clothing and implanted in the human body.