US officials have identified the American who took part in a suicide operation carried out by the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, earlier this month.
The State Department confirmed yesterday that the jihadist, known as Abu Hurayra al Amriki, was in fact an American. “I can confirm that this individual was a US citizen involved in a suicide bombing in Syria,” Jen Psaki, the State Department spokesperson, said during a press briefing. “We don’t have further information beyond that at this – to share at this time.”
But officials later told the press that the man was named Moner Mohammad Abusalha. According to The New York Times, which has published an account of Abusalha’s background, the American recruit was in his early 20s, “grew up in Florida and traveled to Syria late last year.”
“Mr. Abusalha had been among several dozen Americans on the radar of federal law enforcement officials because of past trips to Syria,” the Times reports. The Daily Beast reported earlier this month that US intelligence officials think that more than 100 Americans have joined the jihad in Syria. Other publications have since confirmed that figure.
The Times contacted both an unnamed Al Nusrah Front fighter and a member of another group, Suqour al Sham, who knew Abusalha in Syria. Suqour al Sham is a part of the Islamic Front, a coalition of rebel groups that is often portrayed as moderate. The group frequently fights alongside Al Nusrah and took part in the operation in which Abusalha and three other operatives detonated massive truck bombs.
Rumors that an American had taken part in the coordinated suicide bombings first surfaced on Twitter earlier in the week.
The SITE Intelligence Group reported on May 25 that an American was reportedly among the suicide bombers, in addition to a Syrian and men from the Maldives and “Turkistan,” which is likely reference to Central Asia or China.
As The Long War Journal reported on May 27, an Al Nusrah Front sharia official provided the first confirmation that Abu Hurayra was an American, calling him “al Amriki” in a tweet. The Al Nusrah official, Abu Sulayman al Muhajir, relocated from Australia to Syria last year. Abu Sulayman posted the image shown at the top of this article along with text that reads: “Performed a martydom operation in Idlib, Jabal Al-Arba’een. May Allah accept him.”
The video below appears to show the truck bomb Abusalha drove being packed with explosives and then detonated. The Al Nusrah Front, which released the video, said that 16 tons of explosives had been loaded into truck.