Pentagon Says Airstrike Killed Al-Qaida Operative in Syria

WASHINGTON (Tribune Washington Bureau/TNS) - An airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria has killed Sanafi al-Nasr, leader of an al-Qaida offshoot called the Khorasan Group and primary coordinator for moving money and fighters to terrorist strongholds in Syria, the Pentagon said Sunday.

The Saudi-born fighter, also known as Abdul Mohsen Adballah Ibrahim al Charekh, was killed Thursday in northwest Syria, said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook.

Nasr organized routes for recruits to travel from Pakistan to Syria, and helped manage the group’s finances by moving funds from donors into Iraq and then to al-Qaida leaders.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group based in London, said Nasr was killed near the northern town of Dana with another Saudi and a Moroccan member of al-Qaida’s local affiliate, known as the Nusra Front.

Nasr is the fifth senior Khorasan Group leader killed in the past four months. The Pentagon said his death was a major loss for al-Qaida, though the group has a proven ability to replace leaders quickly.

The Khorasan Group is said to be a cell of veteran al-Qaida members with bomb-making abilities who moved to Syria to work undetected by government authorities preoccupied with the civil war there. Their capabilities and the group’s Western recruits, who could cross borders with little scrutiny, are a particularly worrisome combination for U.S. officials.