ISSN 2330-717X

Centcom Says US Airstrikes Targeted Original Al Qaeda Leaders

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By Terri Moon

The two U.S. counterterrorism airstrikes carried out in northwestern Syria this week on al Qaeda operatives were targeting leaders of the organization’s “original gangsters,” U.S. Central Command spokesman Air Force Col. Pat Ryder told Pentagon reporters.

Speaking from Centcom in Florida via teleconference, Ryder said the al-Qaeda leaders appeared in northwestern Syria April 3 and April 5, and both airstrikes strictly focused on an al-Qaeda threat, and were not related whatsoever to Centcom’s Operation Inherent Resolve campaign to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Ryder confirmed the U.S. aircraft targeted original core senior leaders of al-Qaeda, and not members of a splinter organization. The unilateral U.S. counterterrorism airstrikes were conducted after intelligence confirmed their appearance when they “popped up” in that region of Syria.

“The strikes this week were focused on key al-Qaeda leaders who pose a threat to the United States, our allies and international security interests,” he said. “When we have information and we’re able to act on it and conduct dynamic strikes or deliberate strikes in some cases against al-Qaeda, we’re going to do it.”

Al-Qaeda members have appeared in other areas, such as Afghanistan, he said, adding the United States keeps track of members of the group.

“We were able to take information we received this week and put some ‘hurt’ on that organization in Syria,” Ryder said, adding he is unable to provide details at this time.

Seeking Ungoverned Places

Terrorists seek out ungoverned spaces to try to reestablish operations unhindered, Ryder said.

“We see al-Qaeda trying to reconstitute in places where they can plan external operations. The point is to put pressure on them,” he said.

Wherever threats from al-Qaeda are present, “We’re going to hunt them down to protect the homeland and protect our partners,” Ryder said.

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