Airstrikes Targeted Original Al-Qaida Leaders
By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity
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WASHINGTON, April 8, 2016 — The two U.S. counterterrorism airstrikes carried out in northwestern Syria this week on al-Qaida operatives were targeting leaders of the organization’s “original gangsters,” U.S. Central Command spokesman Air Force Col. Pat Ryder told Pentagon reporters today.
Speaking from Centcom in Florida via teleconference, Ryder said the al-Qaida leaders appeared in northwestern Syria April 3 and April 5, and both airstrikes strictly focused on an al-Qaida 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-Qaida, 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-Qaida 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-Qaida, we’re going to do it.”
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Calvin Overway, assigned to Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 502 Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, talks with an Iraqi soldier during Operation NANNO II in Baghdad, Jan. 10, 2008. U.S. soldiers from Charlie Company, 2-502 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, worked with the Iraqi army to go after al-Qaida operatives. Two U.S. counterterrorism airstrikes recently carried out in northwestern Syria on al-Qaida operatives were targeting leaders of the organization’s “original gangsters,” U.S. Central Command spokesman Air Force Col. Pat Ryder told Pentagon reporters, April 8, 2016. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kim Smith
Al-Qaida 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-Qaida 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-Qaida are present, “We’re going to hunt them down to protect the homeland and protect our partners,” Ryder said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)