New information leads U.S. officials to believe that French jihadist David Drugeon, a bomb maker in the al-Qaeda affiliated Khorasan Group, survived U.S. strikes last month, U.S. officials tell CNN.
CNN’s reporting on Drugeon is the result of a collaboration with the French newspaper L’Express. Intelligence indicates Drugeon was seriously injured in the drone strike on his vehicle in November and immediately driven away for treatment at a location Jihadis felt was secure, L’Express is reporting Wednesday.
The new information is based in part on monitoring of al Qaeda and Khorasan communications, in additional to human intelligence, the official said. Initial information after the strikes in Idlib, Syria, led US intelligence to assess that it was possible Drugeon was killed. But recent intelligence changed that assessment.
CNN’s reporting last month indicated Drugeon’s knowledge of explosives, European background and access to Western fighters makes him arguably one of the most dangerous operatives in the global al Qaeda network.
Drugeon was born in 1989 in a blue-collar and immigrant neighborhood dotted with social housing on the outskirts of Vannes on the Atlantic coast of Brittany, according to Eric Pelletier a reporter with L’Express who has extensively reported on Drugeon and shared his findings with CNN.
By all accounts, Drugeon had a very normal childhood. His father was a bus driver and his mother a secretary and committed Catholic.
He had an elder brother who shared his passion for the French soccer team Olympic Marseilles and he got good grades at school. But like a significant number of others who later took the path to radicalization, his parents’ divorce when he was 13 was traumatic.
Drugeon began acting out, and his grades at school nosedived. He began hanging out with a group of young Muslims in the neighborhood who espoused a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. Before he turned 14 he converted, changing his name to Daoud.
By 2010, Drugeon was on the radar screen of French security services and had made several trips to Egypt to learn Arabic and more about Islam. He funded the trips by taking driving jobs. In April that year, he slipped away from France for good, traveling via Cairo for the tribal areas of Pakistan, to join the jihad against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.