U.S. forces killed 11 al Qaeda operatives — including a longtime ally of Osama bin Laden — in two airstrikes last week in Syria, the Defense Department said Wednesday.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said the second strike, near Idlib on Saturday, killed Abu Hani al-Masri, described as a longtime terrorist with ties to bin Laden, al Qaeda's founder, and to Ayman al-Zawahiri, its current leader.
Davis said al-Masri, who is thought to have been 65 years old, oversaw the creation and operation of many al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan in the 1980s and '90s, where he recruited and trained "thousands of terrorists who subsequently spread throughout the region and the world."
The Pentagon statement confirmed reports in Arab media over the weekend that al-Masri had been killed.
The first strike, on Friday, killed 10 people in a building near Idlib being used as an al Qaeda meeting place, said Davis, who said the airstrikes and earlier similar operations "disrupt al Qaeda's ability to plot and direct external attacks targeting the U.S. and our interests worldwide."