Home inContext Leader of Khorasan Group Killed in U.S. Airstrike

Leader of Khorasan Group Killed in U.S. Airstrike

Andy Hazelnis

A U.S. airstrike killed a seasoned member of al-Qaeda, Muhsin al-Fadhli, 31, as he traveled by car in the northwest Syrian town of Sarmada on July 8th, according to recently released information from officials in Washington. Al-Fadhli was leader of Khorasan, a terrorist group focused on launching attacks on the U.S and Europe.

Pentagon spokesperson, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis made the announcement Tuesday morning saying that Al-Fadhli’s “death will degrade and disrupt ongoing external operation of al-Qaeda against the United States and our allies and partners.”

A file photo showing smoke rising after a coalition airstrike in Syria. (Photo: AP)

According to U.S. reports, Fadhli was a confidant of Osama bin Laden and one of the few members of al-Qaeda to receive a warning prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Fadhli was active in terrorist operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade and is considered a close ally of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, before his death in 2006. Officials suspect Fadhli’s involvment in two 2002 terrorist attacks, one that killed a United States Marine in Kuwait as well as a deadly explosion on the French oil tanker MV Limburg off the coast of Yemen.

Moreover, Fadhli was identified as the highest ranking member of the Khorasan, an al-Qaeda affiliate based in Syria which sole objective was launching attacks on the United States and its allies. Although information is limited on the group, it is assumed to be made up of approximately two dozen senior al-Qaeda operatives and closely coordinates with the al-Nusra Front. The U.S. has targeted the Khorasan leaders at least once before; In September 2013, the U.S. military launched eight strikes against targets that were planning “imminent” attacks against Western interests.

According to Bruce O. Riedel, a former C.I.A. analyst who now works at the Brookings Institution, “Ayman Zawahri created the Khorasan Group to bring together the best operatives from across al-Qaeda to Syria to target the West.” With Khorasan’s secret operations aimed at recruiting Westerners and giving them the ability to conduct their own terror attacks abroad, the U.S. must continue monitor the group’s central leadership in Syria.