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July 23, 2015

Where's the Coverage: Dead Terrorist was al-Qaeda's "leader in Iran"

Both Iran and terrorism have received considerable news coverage. The attack in Chattanooga, Tennessee that killed four United States Marines and one sailor on July 16, 2015 and the conclusion of U.S.-led nuclear negotiations over the Islamic Republic of Iran’s purported nuclear program two day previously kept both subjects in the headlines. FBI officials reportedly were investigating the Tennessee murders as terrorism, but a connection to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, if only inspirational, has not been confirmed.

The July 21 Pentagon announcement of a July 8 U.S drone strike in northwestern Syria killing Muhsin al-Fadhli—leader of an al-Qaeda group dubbed by some D.C. analysts the Khorasan Group—provided the press with another opportunity to cover the ongoing threat of terror. Yet, while noting al-Fadhli’s death, some major media outlets omitted his connections to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism: The Islamic Republic of Iran.

According to previously disclosed classified U.S. intelligence estimates, the Khorasan Group had been planning attacks on the U.S. homeland and had “been working with bomb makers from al-Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate to test new ways to slip nonmetallic explosives past airport security. Officials fear that the Khorasan militants could provide these sophisticated explosives to their Western recruits, who could sneak them onto United States-bound flights.”

The New York Times reported (“Qaeda Leader in Syria, a Bin Laden Ally, Is Killed in Strike, U.S. Says,” July 22, 2015) Muhsin al-Fadhli was identified in 2012 by the U.S. State Department as al-Qaeda’s “leader in Iran” where he directed “the movement of funds and operatives.” The Times observed that prior to arriving in Syria and working with al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front, the terrorist leader had been living in Iran where he was one of a number of al-Qaeda operatives who had fled into the country from Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. The newspaper noted that Iranian officials have since claimed that Fadhli and other al-Qaeda terrorists were under house arrest while there, but have failed to provide any proof of that or an explanation of how they managed to escape to Syria. The Baltimore Sun (“Drone kills al-Qaeda leader,” July 21) similarly detailed that not only was Fadhli “head of the network’s [Al-Qaeda] operations in Iran” but that the word “Khorasan”—a Persian word—is the name of an 8th century province in “an early Islamic caliphate that spanned what is now northern Iran and part of Afghanistan.”

Yet, other publications did not note the terrorist’s Iranian connection at all when providing an overview of his background.

Reporting Fadhli’s history as being among the “few trusted” senior al-Qaeda leaders who were given advance notice of the 9/11 terror attacks, The Los Angeles Times (“U.S. strike kills Al Qaeda ‘facilitator’; drone over Syria hits the leader of the Khorasan Group,” July 22) failed to mention Fadhli’s Iran tie. The Washington Post (“Airstrike killed a senior al-Qaeda figure in Syria, Pentagon says,” July 22, 2015) similarly omitted the role of Iran in allowing a base for the al-Qaeda leader and his compatriots.

Reporting the death of a terrorist leader—particularly one mentioned by name in a 2005 speech by President George W. Bush in Brussels—is newsworthy. However, with the debate surrounding the nuclear deal with Iran and the Islamic Republic’s role as a leading state sponsor of terrorism, readers of The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times would perhaps have been better served by more detailed coverage noting the deceased al-Qaeda leaders’ time in Iran.

Where’s the coverage? —Sean Durns


Posted by ER at July 23, 2015 02:27 PM

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