US airstrikes in Syria have had an “important impact,” US national security adviser Susan Rice said Wednesday, but it is unclear if they have killed the head of the Khorasan group, an Al-Qaeda offshoot.
The strikes by US warplanes and cruise missiles targeted the Islamic State movement as well as the little-known Khorasan group, which Washington said has said was plotting attacks against US targets.
“We think the strikes had an impact, important impact,” Rice told NBC news, 36 hours after Washington expanded its bombing campaign from Iraq to Syria, backed by allies in the region.
“Obviously, this won’t be the last of our efforts. But this was a first wave.”
She added: “We feel very good about our success. We’ll continue to take a look and we’ll be doing more.”
Rice said the United States at this point is unable to confirm that the airstrikes succeeded in killing Khorasan’s alleged leader, long-standing Qaeda operative Muhsin al-Fadhli.
“We can’t confirm that at this stage. We’ve seen reports on social media to that effect. We will continue to look for signs as to whether or not that’s, in fact, the case,” Rice told NBC.
The coalition aims to destroy the Islamic State group, which controls a swath of territory in Iraq and Syria, has murdered two US journalists and a British aid worker and is locked in a brutal war with Iraqi and Kurdish authorities.
Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, Al-Nusra Front, said Wednesday that it is evacuating its bases and positions in the northeastern province of Idlib, a day after US-led strikes were launched against jihadists.
Ahrar al-Sham, a key Islamist rebel group allied with Nusra, was also evacuating its positions in the region, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
On Twitter, Nusra said it had “evacuated the majority” of it bases near residential areas.
“Thousands of fighters from Al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham have evacuated their bases in Idlib province,” the Observatory said.
The Britain-based group, which relies on a network of activists and other sources on the ground, said Ahrar al-Sham had also urged “civilians to keep their distance from bases” belonging to it.
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