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Syria air strikes: US targeted Khorasan terrorist group to stop 'imminent attack'

The US has not just hit Isis in its operations to protect 'Western interests'

Lizzie Dearden
Tuesday 23 September 2014 14:50 BST

The US has attacked a second terrorist group in Syria that was plotting an “imminent attack against America and Western interests” as the bombing campaign against the Islamic State (Isis) begins.

American forces started air strikes inside the country with international allies overnight with the stated aim of targeting Isis but the US also hit a group called Khorasan, it has emerged.

A spokesman for the Department of Defence did not give any details of the alleged plot but inferred it was international, saying Khorasan had been developing "external" attacks and recruiting Westerners to its cause.

On Monday, the US director of national intelligence James Clapper described the group, made up of al-Qaeda veterans, as an international terror threat on the same level as Isis.

A spokesperson from Central Command said: “The group has established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations.”

Longtime al-Qaeda operative Muhsin al-Fadhli leads a group called Khorasan, which may pose a more direct threat than the Islamic State (State Department)

Unlike, the bombing against Isis, the attacks on Khorasan were undertaken only by the US.

The eight strikes against Khorasan hit targets west of Aleppo, including training camps, an explosives and munitions factory, a communication building and command and control facilities.

Officials from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed positions used by the Nusra Front group were also struck in the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo but the reports were not confirmed.

A Syrian activist confirmed the strikes, saying a house used by Nusra militants and one of the group's bases had been hit.

Isis fighters were hit near the group’s stronghold of Raqqa, near the Iraqi border, Dayr az Zawr and Abu Kamal in eastern Syria and Al Hasakah in the north east.

Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were among the countries supporting US air strikes overnight on Monday.

A spokesperson from the American Central Command said fighter planes, bombers, drones and Tomahawk missiles were used in 14 strikes against Isis.

Almost 50 Tomahawk missiles were launched from the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea, operating from international waters in the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf in co-ordination with the air strikes.

Meanwhile, the American and French operation against Isis in Iraq continues.

To date, the US Central Command has conducted a total of 194 air strikes across Iraq following Barack Obama’s vow to “degrade and destroy” Isis.

Britain was among more than 20 countries backing an international pledge to use military force if necessary against the terrorist group at a summit in Paris last week.

The vow came after footage was released showing the brutal murder of British aid worker David Haines by the same group who beheaded American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.

A spokesperson for Downing Street said David Cameron supported last night's strikes by the US and allies against Isis and would discuss "what contribution the UK can make" later on Tuesday.

Video courtesy of the US Navy

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