On Thursday, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) identified Salim Abu-Ahmad as the senior Al Qaeda leader killed in a September 20 airstrike in northwestern Syria.
“Salim Abu-Ahmad was responsible for planning, funding, and approving trans-regional al-Qaeda attacks,” Army Maj. John Rigsbee, a CENTCOM spokesman told Military Times on Thursday. “There are no indications of civilian casualties as a result of the strike. This strike continues U.S. operations to degrade international terrorist networks and target terrorist leaders who seek to attack the U.S. homeland and its interests and allies abroad.”
The September 20 strike took place in Idlib, Syria, a region controlled by armed rebels to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s rule.
The Associated Press initially reported the strike had hit a vehicle traveling down a rural road. Images shared on social media showed a destroyed vehicle on the side of the road near an orchard.
The Associated Press also reported the Syrian Civil Defense organization, also known as White Helmets, said the unidentified body was pulled from the vehicle following the strike.
The exact identity of the Al Qaeda leader had been a matter of speculation ever since the day of the strike.
On September 20, Middle East Eye reporter Levent Kemal, said in a translated tweet, “A drone attack [probably by the United States] was carried out on a vehicle belonging to the Syrian Al-Qaeda Huras al-Din organization in Idlib. Abu Bara Tunisi and Abu Hamza Yemeni and another member of Huras al-Din were killed in the vehicle.”
Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) spokesman Farhad Shami also tweeted support for the U.S. airstrike. “We welcome the air strike in the Idlib region, which targeted al-Qaeda leaders. we remind our partners in the international coalition that hundreds of terrorists and ISIS fighters are operating in the occupied areas of Afrin, Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain.”
“It is important the international community pressure Turkey not to turn the occupied areas into a safe environment for terrorists who pose threat to the world,” Shami added.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley testified before Congress this week that he believes Al Qaeda could resurge as early as 2022.
“A reconstituted Al Qaeda or ISIS, with aspirations to attack the United States, is a very real possibility,” Milley said during his testimony. “And those conditions to include activity in ungoverned spaces could present themselves in the next 12 to 36 months.”