The Pentagon said Wednesday that two U.S. airstrikes conducted in Syria last week killed 11 Al Qaeda operatives, including one with ties to former leader Usama bin Laden.
The airstrike near Idlib killed 10 operatives in a building used as an Al Qaeda meeting site, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said. A strike the next day killed Abu Hani al-Masri, who U.S. officials said oversaw the creation and operation of Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s.
Al-Masri had ties to bin Laden and to Ayman al-Zawahiri, who became the top leader of the terror group when U.S. forces killed bin Laden in 2011, Davis said
“These strikes disrupt Al Qaeda’s ability to plot and direct external attacks targeting the US and our interests worldwide,” Davis said in a statement. “These extremists are increasingly questioning the loyalty of their members as paranoia spreads throughout their network about the many strikes conducted against them. U.S. forces have struck multiple meeting locations, an established basic training camp, and four leaders since the beginning of the year.”
Al-Masri is also considered one of the founders of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the first Sunni group to use suicide bombers in terror attacks. The group was responsible for multiple attacks against U.S. and allied facilities and personnel, including a 1998 attempt to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Albania.
BBC noted that Al Qaeda’s power in Syria is largely exerted through the Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham jihadist group, formerly known as the Nusra Front. The group, however, said last year it was no longer affiliated with any other group, sparking speculation it had cut ties with Al Qaeda.