Khorasan Group Plotted to Use Toothpaste Bombs on American Airliners
The United States bombed a Syrian terror group that was in the final stages of a plot to blow up American airliners with toothpaste tube bombs last night, the Pentagon has claimed.
Alongside its strikes on the ISIS heartland, officials said US warplanes hit a previously unknown group of Al-Qaeda militants known as the Khorosan Group. The group of seasoned terrorists planned to ‘imminently’ attack a US airliner or other target using a bomb without any metal parts, toothpaste tubes and clothes dipped in explosives, an unnamed US official told CNN.
President Barack Obama ordered the strikes after intelligence reports discovered the plot this week, officials claimed. Lieutenant General William Mayville, the Pentagon’s director of operations, said Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from US warships in the region were used to hit the group’s compounds, workshops and training grounds around the city of Aleppo.
‘Intelligence reports indicated that the Khorasan Group was in the final stages of plans to execute attacks against Western targets and potentially the US homeland,’ he said.
Khorasan, which has been described as a collective of ‘seasoned Al Qaeda veterans’, is understood to intercept Westerners travelling to fight for radical groups in Syria, including ISIS. As many of these would-be jihadists retain their passports and travelled to Syria without their home nation’s knowledge, Khorasan trains them not for combat in the Middle East – but rather for future terror attacks back home in the West.
The group is linked to the much better-known Al Nusra Front only through their shared links with Ayman al-Zawahiri led Al Qaeda – which acts as an umbrella organization for Salafist terror cells. Khorasan is one of several Al Qaeda affiliates in Syria and possibly one of the most secretive groups operating under the cover of Syria’s civil war. But unlike the Al Nusra Front, Khorasan appears to have little interest in the outcome of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Nor does it seem to harbour ambitions to control vast swaths of territory in the hope of establishing an independent state as ISIS does.
Instead Khorasan exploits the chaos of the Syrian Civil War to recruit from the many thousands of young Western Muslims travelling to the region without prior connections to a specific militant group. The group’s leader Muhsin al-Fadhli, 33, is thought to have been close to Osama bin Laden since around the time of September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States.
Another senior figure within Khorasan is believed to be Yemeni bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri, who is also a senior member of another group known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The overnight missile strikes in Syria were followed by attacks by US warplanes and drones backed by America’s Arabian allies.
Although Khorasan suffered eight targetted U.S. attacks the main focus of the action was against ISIS. Following the raids – the first carried out by the US against IS on Syrian territory – U.S. President Barack Obama has vowed ‘to do what’s necessary’ to deal with the group. He said the backing of five Arab states – Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates – underlined the support he was building for international action to defeat ISIS – also referred to as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant).
‘The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone,’ he said in a statement on the White House lawn. ‘The overall effort will take time, there will be challenges ahead, but we are going to do what’s necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group for the security of the country and the region and for the entire world.’
Among the areas hit overnight was the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa where it is thought British aid worker Alan Henning is currently being held.
Since August, the US has carried out around 190 air strikes against IS in Iraq as part of Mr Obama’s campaign to ‘degrade and destroy’ the militants. Britain has so far been helping supply arms to the Kurdish peshmergas fighting IS in northern Iraq, as well as offering support to the new Iraqi government led by Haider Abadi. It was also a driving force behind a UN Security Council presidential statement on Friday calling on the international community to help Iraq defeat the extremists.