United States intelligence has collected social media posts suggesting Muhsin al-Fadhli, a veteran al Qaeda operative who led the notorious Khorasan Group, was killed in Monday’s airstrikes, national security adviser Susan Rice said Wednesday.
His death, however, has not been independently verified, she added.
“We can't confirm that at this stage,” Rice said during an interview with NBC News. “But we've seen reports on social media to that effect. We will continue to look for signs as to whether or not that's, in fact, the case.”
The death of al-Fadhli, whom Rice described as “a dangerous operative,” would be a coup for the United States. The U.S. has prioritized eliminating members of the core al Qaeda leadership following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Al-Fadhli was one of a small group who knew about the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center before they occurred, according to a report from the United Nations. The State Department has offered a $7 million bounty for information leading to his capture.
"He was the bodyguard and second-in-command for a leader in the al Qaeda network and fought for al Qaeda in the north of Afghanistan," according to a U.N. document. "Al-Fadhli also fought against Russian forces in Chechnya, where he trained in the use of firearms, anti-aircraft guns and explosives. Al-Fadhli was a facilitator connected with the al-Zarqawi groups in Iraq, providing support to fighters there."
Rice said Wednesday that the administration believed that airstrikes targeting the Khorasan Group had “an important impact” but that the U.S. could not yet fully quantify how much damage was done.
“We have something we call battle damage assessment, which is a rolling assessment of the impact of our strikes,” she said. “I think the first instance, we feel very good about our success. But we'll continue to take a look, and we'll be doing more.”
The strikes hit the group's training camps, an explosive and munitions factory, a communications building and command and control facilities, the Pentagon said Tuesday.