At an age when most people haven’t even graduated from college, Muhsin al-Fadhli’s was given advance notice of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when he was a 20-year-old top al Qaeda leader. His meteoric rise reflected his ability to network and raise funds for the terror group after his upbringing in the oil-rich nation of Kuwait. Fadhli’s involvement in terror circles brought him from Kuwait to Afghanistan to Russia to Iran and Syria, where U.S. officials said Wednesday he may have met his demise in an airstrike, although there was no firm confirmation that Fadhli, now 33, was killed. “We believe he is dead,” an unnamed official told Reuters.
At the time of his alleged death, Fadhli was an al Qaeda adviser with a $7 million bounty on his head from the U.S. State Department, which claimed he led fundraising for the terror network in Iran in 2012 and encouraged donors to send funds to Syria via Turkey. He also worked to move fighters through Turkey “to support al Qaeda-affiliated elements in Syria,” according to the agency.
Born in Kuwait on April 24, 1981, Fadhli fought with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and served as the bodyguard and second-in-command for an al Qaeda leader in the northern part of the country, according to a United Nations Security Council document. He “fought against Russian forces in Chechnya, where he trained in the use of firearms, antiaircraft guns and explosives.”
The terror leader helped orchestrate an attack against U.S. Marines on Kuwait’s Failaka Island in October 2002 that killed one Marine. Fadhli was in his birth country to raise money for an attack on a French ship that was attacked off the coast of Yemen two days before the Failaka Island attack. He was convicted of terrorism charges in Kuwait in February 2003 and given a five-year jail sentence.
Fadhli was also involved with al Qaeda’s branch in Iraq, where he provided support to fighters loyal to al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in 2006.
Fadhli was last believed to be in Syria, where he was the leader of the Khorasan Group, an al Qaeda cell of seasoned operatives that was working on unconventional ways to smuggle bombs onto U.S.-bound airliners. Intelligence officials believed the Khorasan Group was in the final stages of a plot against U.S. soil, prompting U.S.-led airstrikes to target the group in the first round of attacks in Syria.