DUBAI (Reuters) - A jihadist Twitter account said the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Khorasan group was killed in a U.S. air strike in Syria, SITE monitoring service said on Sunday after several days of uncertainty over whether he survived the raid.
A U.S. official said on Sept. 24 the United States believed Mohsin al-Fadhli, a senior al Qaeda operative, had been killed in a strike a day earlier, but the Pentagon said several hours later it was still investigating what had happened to him.
In a tweet posted on Sept. 27, a jihadist offered condolences for the death of Kuwaiti-born Fadhli, otherwise known as Abu Asmaa al-Kuwati or Abu Asmaa al-Jazrawi, said SITE, a U.S.-based organization that monitors militant groups online.
In Washington, Tony Blinken, deputy White House national security adviser, said U.S. officials could not yet confirm the death.
“We want to make sure that he’s not trying to, in effect, fake his death and go underground,” Blinken said on “Fox News Sunday.” “But there are serious indicators he was removed.”
U.S. officials have described Khorasan as a network of seasoned al Qaeda fighters with battlefield experience mostly in Pakistan and Afghanistan that is now working in league with al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front.
Khorasan is a term for an area including parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan where al Qaeda’s main council is believed to be in hiding.
After the Sept. 23 strikes, U.S. officials said they were still assessing how badly Khorasan had been hit. Islamist militants on social media have said there were unconfirmed reports that the 33-year-old Fadhli had been killed.
SITE did not name the jihadist who reported Fadhli’s death but said he had trained under a close associate of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri and had fought in Khorasan before traveling to Syria.
A 2012 State Department notice offering a $7 million reward for information on Fadhli’s whereabouts said he was an al Qaeda financier close to founder Osama bin Laden and among the few who knew in advance about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Reporting by William Maclean; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Mark Trevelyan