AP identifies French militant David Drugeon as target of U.S. airstrikes on ‘Khorasan Group’

The Associated Press reports: The barrage of U.S. cruise missiles last month aimed at a Syrian terrorist cell killed just one or two key militants, according to American intelligence officials who say the group of veteran al-Qaida fighters is still believed to be plotting attacks against U.S. and European targets.

The strikes on a compound near Aleppo did not deal a crippling blow to the Khorasan Group, officials said, partly because many important members had scattered amid news reports highlighting their activities. Among those who survived is a French-born jihadi who fought in Afghanistan with a military prowess that is of great concern to U.S. intelligence officials now.

News stories last month, including a Sept. 13 report by The Associated Press that first disclosed the group’s significance as a terrorist threat, led some members to flee before the U.S. military had a chance to strike their known locations, U.S. officials said.

One Khorasan leader, Muhsin al-Fadhli, has been eulogized on jihadi web sites, but American officials are not convinced that he is dead. They said they believe that another senior militant was killed, but have declined to name him.

A second Khorasan figure, a French militant named David Drugeon, is believed to be alive. Drugeon, who was born in the Brittany region and converted to Islam as a youth, spent time with al-Qaida in the tribal areas of Pakistan before traveling to Syria, French officials say.

He was identified as a member of the Khorasan Group by two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified information.

On October 5, McClatchy reported: A former French intelligence officer who defected to al Qaida was among the targets of the first wave of U.S. air strikes in Syria last month, according to people familiar with the defector’s movements and identity.

Two European intelligence officials described the former French officer as the highest ranking defector ever to go over to the terrorist group and called his defection one of the most dangerous developments in the West’s long confrontation with al Qaida.

The identity of the officer is a closely guarded secret. Two people, independently of one another, provided the same name, which McClatchy is withholding pending further confirmation. All of the sources agreed that a former French officer was one of the people targeted when the United States struck eight locations occupied by the Nusra Front, al Qaida’s Syrian affiliate. The former officer apparently survived the assault, which included strikes by 47 cruise missiles.

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