Al Qaeda leader claims key operative in so-called ‘Khorasan group’ was killed

Sanafi al Nasr picture 2.jpg

Sanafi al Nasr is sitting on the far left in the picture above. The photo was circulated on Twitter following erroneous reports of his death earlier this year. Nasr claims on his Twitter feed that one of his al Qaeda comrades, Muhsin al Fadhli, has been killed by US airstrikes in Syria.

A senior al Qaeda leader known as Sanafi al Nasr (a Saudi whose real name is Abdul Mohsin Abdullah Ibrahim Al Sharikh) has claimed on his Twitter feed that Muhsin al Fadhli is now an al Qaeda “martyr.” Al Fadhli has been publicly identified by US officials as a key operative in the so-called “Khorasan group,” which was dispatched to Syria by al Qaeda’s senior leadership.

The al Qaeda group, which is suspected of planning mass casualty terrorist attacks in the West, was struck last week as part of the US-led bombing campaign in Syria.

As The Long War Journal first reported, Nasr himself is a member of al Qaeda’s Khorasan group in Syria.

Although Nasr’s tweets indicate that al Fadhli is dead, they should not be treated as authoritative.

Earlier this year, senior officials in the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria, and other al Qaeda-allied jihadists reported on Twitter that Nasr had been killed.

Nasr was most likely wounded while fighting against forces loyal to Bashar al Assad, but he survived the battle. Weeks after he was reportedly killed, Nasr began tweeting once again, thereby confirming that he was in fact alive.

In a pair of tweets posted on Sept. 29, Nasr asked Allah to accept al Fadhli as a martyr and said the time has come for him to rest.

Nasr also tweeted a picture of a young child, saying he was killed in the American (“Crusader”) bombing campaign. Nasr described the boy as the “son of our brother Abu Basir” and prayed that Allah accept both of them as martyrs.

Although some anonymous US officials have told the press that they believe al Fadhli was killed during the American airstrikes last week, there has been no official confirmation of his death by either the US or al Qaeda.

And while Nasr’s tweets indicate al Fadhli is dead, recent history tells us to be skeptical of such claims on social media, especially without martyrdom photos or other firm evidence. The fog of war often makes it difficult to confirm if a specific al Qaeda leader has been killed, or has survived, or has escaped an American airstrike entirely unscathed.

Nasr’s new tweets were the first he posted since Sept. 18, just days before the US struck the facilities where al Qaeda members were believed to be plotting attacks against the West.

In his first tweet on Sept. 29, Nasr wrote, “Peace, mercy and blessings of Allah.” Assuming Nasr wrote this, and someone else did not take control of his Twitter account, the post was confirmation that Nasr had survived last week’s airstrikes against al Qaeda’s positions.

In two other tweets, Nasr encourages jihadist unity against their common enemies. “The Arab and non-Arab tyrants have gathered together to wage war on the Muslims,” Nasr wrote. “When will we gather?”

“I will stand beside any Muslim in the war against the Crusaders, whether he be Sufi or Mughal,” Nasr wrote in another tweet.

Nasr has been a vocal critic of the Islamic State, the former al Qaeda branch that was disowned by al Qaeda’s senior leaders earlier this year. In addition to being a senior al Qaeda official, Nasr has been embedded within the Al Nusrah Front and he serves as a senior strategist in the group. The Islamic State has fought against Al Nusrah since last year.

Most of the US-led bombing campaign has focused on positions controlled by the Islamic State. But some of the airstrikes conducted within the first 24 hours of the campaign also hit Al Nusrah positions where members of al Qaeda’s Khorasan group were thought to be stationed.

For more on Sanafi al Nasr, who is a third cousin of Osama bin Laden, and his al Qaeda pedigree, see LWJ reports: Head of al Qaeda’s ‘Victory Committee’ in Syria and Treasury designates 2 ‘key’ al Qaeda financiers.

*Oren Adaki, an Arabic language specialist and research associate at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, contributed to this article.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

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2 Comments

  • hank says:

    they can make false claims anytime! show us the body!

  • Arjuna says:

    Does the turncoat French intelligence officer have a name yet? He is obviously DGSE if la Defense is flatly denying ownership of the problem. Expert in “explosives” eh? That’s a funny MOS for an intelligence officer…

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