Pentagon: 'Khorasan group' leader killed in Syria

Pentagon: 'Khorasan group' leader killed in Syria

The Pentagon confirmed Tuesday that the leader of the Khorasan Group — an Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria focused on hitting Western targets — has been killed.  

"Muhsin al-Fadhli, a longtime al-Qaeda operative, was killed in a kinetic strike July 8 while traveling in a vehicle near Sarmada, Syria," said Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis. 

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Al-Fadhli was the leader of a network of veteran al-Qaeda operatives in Syria who were planning attacks against the U.S. and allies, Davis said. 

"He was a senior al-Qaeda facilitator who was among the few trusted al-Qaeda leaders that received advanced notification of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks," he said. 

Al-Fadhli was also involved in terrorist attacks that took place in October 2002, including against U.S. Marines on Faylaka Island in Kuwait and on the French ship MV Limburg, he said. 

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

Last October, FBI Director James Comey said the Khorasan Group was working on a plan to hit the U.S.

“Khorasan was working and may still be working on an effort to attack the United States or our allies, and looking to do it very, very soon,” he said Oct. 5 on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

“I can’t sit here and tell you whether their plan is tomorrow or three weeks or three months from now,” he said. “Given our visibility, we know they’re serious people, bent on destruction. And so we have to act as if it’s coming tomorrow.”

In May, former CIA deputy and acting Director Michael Morell listed the group as in the top three terrorist threats against the U.S., above the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The other threats were from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al Qaeda's core in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

 

The connection between the Khorasan Group and another al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, Nusra Front, is murky. The Pentagon has acknowledged both are in the same "network." 

"The Khorasan Group is a term used to refer to a network of Nusra Front and al Qaeda core extremists who share a history of training operatives, facilitating fighters and money, and planning attacks against U.S. and Western targets," the military said on Nov. 5. 

The U.S. first conducted airstrikes against the group on Sept. 23. Before then, the U.S. has not acknowledged publicly that the group existed.

Officials then said those strikes were taken to "disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests," which established a safe haven in Syria to recruit Westerners to conduct operations.