(CBS SF) — News of airstrikes by the U.S. and five Arab countries on Islamic State targets inside Syria also included word of a separate action by the U.S. against a group whose name has not been dominating headlines as has ISIS – the jihadist group known as Khorasan.
The Khorasan group is believed to be a subset of the al Qaeda-affiliated group in Syria, the al-Nusra Front, which has fought against both the Syrian government and ISIS over territory in the northern part of the country.
The Khorasan name refers to an ancient Islamic region which comprised parts of present day Afghanistan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
U.S. officials believe Khorasan jihadists, who are said to have bomb-making experts among their group, are a more imminent threat to the U.S. than ISIS.
“We believe the Khorasan group was nearing the execution phase of an attack either in Europe or the homeland,” director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lt. Gen. William Mayville said Tuesday. “We know that the Khorasan group has attempted to recruit Westerners to serve as operatives or to infiltrate back into their homelands.
The group of veteran al Qaeda operatives is believed to be developing terror plots against U.S. aviation, recruiting Western jihadists with U.S. and European passports to help carry out the attacks.
Aside from the airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said eight airstrikes were launched against the Khorasan group and that the decision to launch the operations simultaneously was influenced by the fear the Khorasan group would disperse once word of the strikes against ISIS were reported.
The U.S. said its bombing attack against Khorasan took place near the Syrian city of Aleppo and targeted training camps, a munitions plant, and command and control facilities.