U.S. Airstrike Kills Al-Qaeda Leader in Syria

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The leader of the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria with a history of attacks against U.S. targets was killed in a U.S. airstrike on July 8, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.

Muhsin al-Fadhli, who led the Khorasan Group in Syria, was killed when the vehicle he was riding in northwest Syria near the Turkish border, was destroyed, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

The Khorasan was targeted last September when the U.S.-led coalition launched the initial airstrikes in Syria. Their camps were struck by Tomahawk missiles fired from ships in the Mediterranean. At the time, U.S. officials said Khorasan, an al-Qaeda offshoot, was in the final stages of preparing attacks on American or European targets.

The group’s sophisticated bomb-making acumen has been a particular concern of military officials. Al-Fadhli had deep roots with al-Qaeda, having been one of the few operatives who had received advance notice of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Davis said in a statement.

Al-Fadhli was killed by a missile fired by a drone, according to a Defense Department official who spoke about the strike on condition of anonymity. The airstrike targeted the specific vehicle he was traveling in based on intelligence, the official said.

Khorasan is viewed by the Pentagon as a more direct threat to Americans than the Islamic State, the official said, because they are “singularly focused on attacking” Western targets. The official compared Khorasan to the Pentagon’s advanced research arm, DARPA, saying the al-Qaeda group is trying to come up with imaginative ways of attacking the West.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Tom Vanden Brook

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