Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed today that the US targeted Abu Firas al Suri, a senior al Qaeda leader and member of Al Nusrah Front’s elite shura (advisory) council, in an airstrike in Syria.
“The US military conducted an airstrike on a senior al Qaeda operational meeting in northwest Syria on Sunday [Apr. 3], resulting in several enemy [sic] killed,” Cook told reporters during a briefing. “We assess that al Qaeda senior leader Abu Firas al Suri was in that meeting and we are working to confirm his death.”
Cook described al Suri as a “legacy al Qaeda member” who “fought in Afghanistan in the 80s and 90s and worked with Osama bin Laden and other founding al Qaeda members to train terrorists and conduct attacks globally.”
As The Long War Journal reported yesterday, well-connected jihadists on social media quickly claimed that Abu Firas had been killed. [See LWJ report: Jihadists say airstrike killed veteran al Qaeda leader in Syria.]
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Abu Firas’ son “and at least 20 members” of Jund al Aqsa (an al Qaeda front group), Al Nusrah Front (al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria) and “jihadists from other factions of Uzbek nationalities” were killed in the bombings. Uzbek jihadists have long fought alongside Al Nusrah and Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ), a predominately Uzbek group, was subsumed by the al Qaeda arm last September.
SOHR’s account indicates that there were multiple airstrikes, with one targeting Jund al Aqsa’s headquarters near the village of Kafr Jalis and two others hitting points in the “northern countryside” of the Idlib province.
Separately, Cook confirmed that Hassan Ali Dhoore, a dual hatted al Qaeda and Shabaab leader, was killed in an airstrike in Somalia on Mar. 31. Cook said that Dhoore was “heavily involved” in Shabaab’s attack planning in Mogadishu and elsewhere. Shabaab is al Qaeda’s official branch in East Africa. [For more on Dhoore, see LWJ report: US airstrike targets senior leader of Shabaab’s security and intelligence service.]
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