By DoD News
By Terri Moon Cronk
A U.S. military airstrike on a senior al-Qaida operational meeting in northwestern Syria resulted in “several enemy killed,” possibly including the terrorist organization’s leader, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters Monday.
“We assess that al-Qaida’s senior leader, Abu Firas al-Suri, was in that meeting, and we are working to confirm his death,” Cook said.
Suri, a Syrian national, worked with Osama bin Laden and other founding al-Qaida members to train terrorists and conduct attacks on a global scale, Cook said, adding that he was a “legacy” al-Qaida member who fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s.
Al-Shabab Leader Killed in Somalia
In addition, Cook said, the Defense Department has confirmed that al-Shabab senior leader Hassan Ali Dhoore was killed in a March 31 U.S. military airstrike in Somalia. As one of the top leaders of al-Qaida’s Somalian affiliate, the press secretary said, Dhoore was a member of al-Shabaab’s security and intelligence wing and was heavily involved in high-profile attack planning in Mogadishu, Cook said.
“He has planned and overseen attacks resulting in the death of at least three U.S. citizens,” the press secretary said, adding that the United States continues to work with the international community to mitigate conflict in Somalia and to provide a safe and secure environment for the people of Somalia.
DoD’s assessment of al-Shabab activity is ongoing, Cook said, and the department is working with the African Union Mission in Somalia, or Amisom, and U.S. partners in Africa “to determine the best way forward to defeat al-Shabab wherever they are. Amisom is a regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations in Somalia.
ISIL Fighter Connected to Marine’s Death Killed
Cook also confirmed the death of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant battlefield commander thought to be responsible for the March 19 death of Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin of Temecula, California.
“The person we’ve identified is Jasim Khadijah,” he said. “He was an ISIL member and a former Iraqi officer that we believe was directly connected” to the enemy rocket attack on Cardin’s base, he said.
Cardin was part of a Marine Corps detachment near Makhmur, Iraq, and was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, when he was killed.
“Because of [Khadijah’s] particular knowledge and his involvement with that part of ISIL’s operations, … we feel he played a role in the rocket attacks that [claimed] the life of Staff Sergeant Cardin,” Cook said.
Two Detainees Transferred from Guantanamo
Pentagon officials also announced today the transfer of two Libyan nationals from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba to Senegal.
The transfer of Salam Abdu Salam Ghereby and Omar Khalif Mohammed Abu Baker Mahjour brings the number of Guantanamo detainees to 89, Cook said, adding that U.S. officials are grateful to Senegal’s government for its “significant humanitarian gesture and … assistance” as the United States works to responsibly close the Guantanamo Bay facility.
“As always in making these transfer decisions, [Defense Secretary Ash Carter] carefully reviewed the cases and the security assurances provided by the Senegalese government,” the press secretary said. “[The] safety and the security of the American people remains the secretary’s top priority in making these decisions.”