The Pentagon said Sunday that it had killed an extremist figure in Syria whom it identified as “the highest-ranking leader” in the Khorasan Group, a shadowy al-Qaeda faction that U.S. officials have accused in the past of plotting attacks against the United States.
Abdul Mohsen Adballah Ibrahim al-Charekh, 30, a Saudi citizen more commonly known by his nom de guerre, Sanafi al-Nasr, was killed Thursday in an airstrike in northwest Syria, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.
U.S. counterterrorism officials have described the Khorasan Group as a small al-Qaeda offshoot that took root in northern Syria two years ago. Although it is a fraction of the size of the Islamic State and other militant groups in the region, U.S. officials have said the Khorasan network is focused on planning strikes against Western targets and poses more of a direct threat to U.S. interests.
The Pentagon said that Nasr is the fifth Khorasan leader to have been killed by the U.S. military or its allies in the past four months. Khorasan is an archaic term used by some Islamist fighters to refer to a historical region covering parts of Afghanistan, Iran, Turkmenistan and other territory in central Asia.
Other Khorasan leaders killed by U.S. military airstrikes in recent months include Muhsin al-Fadhli, 34, a native of Kuwait who was bombed July 8 while traveling in a vehicle in northwest Syria. Fadhli, believed to have been among the small number of al-Qaeda followers with advance warning of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, had been wanted on a $7 million reward posted by the State Department .
Three days earlier, another airstrike killed David Drugeon, a French citizen and a veteran al-Qaeda bombmaker, near Aleppo, Syria.
U.S. military officials said Nasr and Fadhli were among a core group of al-Qaeda loyalists who shuttled between Iran and Pakistan for several years as the remnants of Osama bin Laden’s original network sought to survive years of U.S. drone attacks.
Nasr was described by the Pentagon as a financial specialist who funneled money from donors in the Persian Gulf to al-Qaeda networks in Iraq, Pakistan and Syria. He also organized routes for new recruits to travel from Pakistan to Syria, military officials said, and was an active propagandist on Twitter.