Defense

Pentagon: Airstrike in Syria killed senior al Qaeda leader

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The Pentagon says it has killed a senior al Qaeda leader in an airstrike in northwest Syria. 

The airstrike on Sunday killed several U.S. enemies, including al Qaeda’s senior leader Abu Firas al Suri, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said. 

{mosads}The airstrike struck an operational meeting that al Suri was assessed to have attended, and the Pentagon is working to confirm his death, Cook said. 

Al Suri is a Syrian national who is a legacy al Qaeda member, having fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s and worked with Osama bin Laden and other founding al Qaeda members to train terrorists and conduct attacks globally, he said.

The Pentagon, however, refrained from characterizing al Suri as a member of the Al Nusra Front, which is al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate. 

The 2001 authorization for the use of military force authorizes the U.S. to target al Qaeda and associated forces. The Pentagon has reasoned that that includes the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, since the group was formerly known as al Qaeda in Iraq. 

The Pentagon has also targeted the Khorasan Group, which it has described as a cell of veteran members of al Qaeda tasked to start a cell in Syria. 

But it is not clear whether the administration believes it is authorized to strike the Al Nusra Front as a target separate from al Qaeda. 

“We consider Al Qaida members in Syria to be legitimate targets, and that was the focus of this strike,” Cook said. 

Cook also announced that a U.S. military airstrike in Somalia carried out on March 31 in Somalia killed a senior leader of al-Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate there.  

Hassan Ali Dhoore was a member of the group’s security and intelligence wing and was heavily involved in high-profile attack planning in Mogadishu, and has planned and overseen attacks resulting in the deaths of at least three U.S. citizens, Cook said.

Tags Al-Nusra Front Al-Qaeda Islamic State of Iraq Khorasan Group Peter Cook
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