Early this week, the US lead military coalition expanded the scope of its counterterrorism efforts in the Middle East by carrying out a series of airstrikes into Syria. But instead of solely targeting ISIL, the extremist Islamist group that has ravaged most of Iraq and now Syria within the past few months, the US also aimed for a little known terrorist cell, called the Khorasan Group.
The bombing campaign was conducted, in the towns of Aleppo and Ar-Raqqah in northwest Syria where intelligence reports suggested that the Khorasan Group was in the final stages of planning several major attacks against Western Europe and possibly the U.S. homeland.
According to the Defense Department, a majority of the strikes destroyed Khorasan workshops and training camps.
What is the Khorasan Group?
The Khorasan Group is an al Qaeda cell composed of about 50 to 100 veteran jihadists from Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan. It has been reported that for over a year the Khorasan Group has embedded itself with another al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria, the al-Nusra Front.
Reportedly killed in the air raids was the Group’s senior leader Moshin al-Fadhli, a 33 year old from Kuwait and one of the only al-Qaeda members with advanced knowledge of the September 11th attacks.
Why the United States Needs to Worry
Former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Michael Leiter, noted, “Khorasan is less of a threat to the region and more of a threat to the homeland than ISIS.”
According to U.S. intelligence, the group of fighters was sent to Syria by al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahari, to develop and test improvised explosives and recruit Westerners to carry out attacks in Europe and America. The Associated Press reports that the Khorasan Group is believed to be working with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to develop bombs that are capable of passing through airport security undetected, such as toothpaste tube bombs and cloths dipped in explosive material.
AQAP is also responsible for manufacturing the “underwear bomb” used in the failed terrorist plot in Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009.
The Joint Staff’s Director of Operations, Lieutenant General Mayville, stated in a press conference Tuesday morning that we are, “…seeing the beginnings of a sustained campaign, and strikes like this in the future can be expected.”
When asked if the U.S. would put ground forces into Syria, Lt. Gen Mayville said it has not and will not put ground forces into that country.
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