Maj. Beth Riordan, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s Central Command, mentioned seven senior Qaeda leaders had been killed whereas holding a gathering on Thursday close to Idlib.
“AQ-S takes benefit of the instability in northwest Syria to ascertain and keep protected havens to coordinate terrorist actions,” Main Riordan mentioned in an e-mail after the strike, utilizing a army abbreviation for Hurras al-Din. “The removing of those AQ-S leaders will disrupt the terrorist group’s capability to additional plot and perform world assaults threatening U.S. residents, our companions and harmless civilians.”
Only a week earlier, on Oct. 15, a number of Qaeda operatives had been killed in an analogous Hellfire missile drone strike, additionally close to Idlib, Main Riordan mentioned with out revealing extra particulars.
Charles Lister, the director of the Center East Institute’s Syria and Countering Terrorism and Extremism Packages, mentioned a type of killed within the Oct. 15 strike was Abu Mohammed al-Sudani, a Qaeda veteran who had labored with and was near each Osama bin Laden and Mr. al-Zawahri.
America has no troops on the bottom in northwest Syria, however the army’s secretive Joint Particular Operations Command, with assist from the C.I.A., is finishing up a shadow warfare in opposition to Hurras al-Din, a small however virulent Al Qaeda affiliate that American officers say is plotting assaults in opposition to the West.
The 2 most up-to-date strikes had been carried with typical Hellfire missiles geared up with an explosive warhead of about 20 kilos, army officers mentioned. Particular Operations forces are additionally utilizing a brand new Hellfire variant, referred to as the R9X or the Ninja, to hunt particular person Qaeda leaders in locations the place the army is making an attempt to keep away from civilian casualties.
As an alternative of exploding, the modified Hellfire hurls about 100 kilos of metallic by way of the highest of a goal’s automobile. If the high-velocity projectile doesn’t kill the goal, the missile’s different characteristic virtually actually does: six lengthy blades tucked inside, which deploy seconds earlier than influence to slice up something in its path.