Khorasan (Islamist group)
(Arabic: خراسان) |
Participant in the Syrian Civil War and
the Global War on Terrorism
Flag of the al-Nusra Front, the parent organization of Khorasan
|Active||Early 2012Template:Spaced ndashpresent|
|Area of operations||23x15px Northwestern Syria|
23px United States Armed Forces|
23px European Union
|Battles and wars|
Khorasan, also known as the Khorasan Group, refers to a group of senior al-Qaeda members who reportedly operate in Syria. The group is further reported to consist of a small number of fighters who are all on terrorist watchlists, and coordinate with the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria. At an intelligence gathering in Washington, D.C. on 18 September 2014, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper stated that "in terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as ISIS."
The term first appeared in news media in September 2014, although the United States had reportedly been keeping track of the group for two years previously. By early November 2014, the term had disappeared from political rhetoric. in 28 May 2015 Nusra Front Leader decline the existences of this group. 
Some commentators have alleged that the threat the Khorasan Group represented was exaggerated to generate public support for American intervention in Syria, and some have questioned whether the group even exists as a distinct entity.
Khorasan is a historical term for a region overlapping modern-day Turkmenistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. The name of the group was coined by intelligence agencies as a reference to the high-ranking Khorasan Shura, a leadership council within al-Qaeda, which many members of the group belong to. United States Central Command, the U.S. Department of Defense military command responsible for operations in Syria and Iraq, described the Khorasan Group name in a 6 November 2014 press release as: "a term used to refer to a network of Nusrah Front and al-Qa'ida core extremists who share a history of training operatives, facilitating fighters and money, and planning attacks against U.S. and Western targets."
The group is described as "a very small group - dozens of fighters only", composed of experienced jihadis from various countries. The group is believed to be made up of "al-Qaeda core" members, meaning the high-ranking members of al-Qaeda who moved to Pakistan following the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. An American intelligence source indicated the group numbers about 50 members. Members of the group are said to have worked with bomb-makers from Yemen, including an al-Qaeda affiliated bomb-maker named Ibrahim al-Asiri to target civilian aircraft heading to the United States and other Western targets. Another member of the group is Frenchman David Drugeon; he is thought to have worked as a bombmaker for the group.
The organization is reported to be led by Muhsin al-Fadhli, a prominent al-Qaeda member who went to Iran after the US invasion of Afghanistan. al-Fadhli was reported dead on social media by several known al-Qaeda members, including Sanafi al Nasr; however, he and Drugeon are now thought to have survived the attacks. Another Khorasan Group member reportedly killed was Abu Yusuf Al-Turki, a Turkish national and jihadist. Al Turki was reported to have been killed on 23 September 2014 by US airstrikes in Syria.
There are indications that some members of the Khorasan Group (including Abu Yusuf Al-Turki) were part of an elite sniper subunit of the al-Nusra Front that was known as the "Wolf Group".
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The group was initially reported to pose an "imminent" threat to the United States, with reports of potential plots involving "a bomb made of a nonmetallic device like a toothpaste container or clothes dipped in explosive material".
Later statements by officials indicated that "there were no known targets or attacks expected in the next few weeks" at the time the US began bombing in Syria. On 5 October 2014, FBI director James Comey stated, "I can't sit here and tell you whether their plan is tomorrow or three weeks or three months from now", but that "we have to act as if it's coming tomorrow."
Criticism of term
A 23 September 2014 article by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace stated that "the sudden flurry of revelations about the 'Khorasan Group' in the past two weeks smacks of strategic leaks and political spin". The article also stated that "Whatever one decides to call it, this is not likely to be an independent organization, but rather a network-within-the-network, assigned to deal with specific tasks."
In an article in The Intercept, journalists Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain stated that "There are serious questions about whether the Khorasan Group even exists in any meaningful or identifiable manner", describing reports of the group as "propagandistic and legal rationale" for military intervention.
On 27th May 2015, in an exclusive interview to Al Jazeera, the leader of the al-Nusra front, Abo Mohammed al-Golani, stated that the Al-Nusra front did not have intentions to 'target the west', referring to North America and Europe, whilst warning against western coalition airstrikes. He also alleged that 'there is nothing called [the] Khorasan group. The Americans came up with it to deceive the public'
On 23 September 2014, United States Central Command stated that they had conducted eight air strikes against the group’s training camps, command and control facilities, and other sites in the area west of Aleppo, Syria. The attacks were ineffective and killed only one or two militants, largely because the members of the group had been warned in advance.
On 6 November 2014, US-led coalition forces bombed targets in the Idlib and Aleppo provinces. Despite US military officials stating that only the Khorasan Group was targeted, local activists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that both Ahrar ash-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra were also hit. It was later announced that the Khorasan's chief bombmaker David Drugeon was believed to have been killed in the attack, but later reports indicated he was only wounded.
A third raid on the group was carried out on 13 November 2014.
On 18 November, the Syrian Army ambushed a group of Khorasan militants in the countryside of Latakia in a separate operation. Eleven members of the group were killed and another 13 were wounded or captured. The Kazakh and Chechen field commanders of the unit, along with Burmese and Saudi jihadists, were among the dead. The attack also left 7 al-Nusra Front fighters dead.
On 1 December 2014, the US carried out another airstrike on Khorasan near Aleppo. On 10 December, the CIA stated that both Muhsin al-Fadhli and David Drugeon, who were both thought dead after US airstrikes, were still alive. Drugeon was said to be badly wounded, and was recuperating inside of a Khorasan-operated hospital.
On 24 March 2015, it was reported that 17 Khorasan fighters had been killed by US airstrikes targeting the group, since the beginning of the campaign on 22 September 2014.
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- Paraszczuk, Joanna (2 October 2014). "Wolf or Khorasan: Who Was Jabhat al-Nusra’s Abu Yusuf al-Turki?". Chechens in Syria. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
- Levs, Josh; Cruickshank, Paul; Lister, Tim (23 September 2014). "U.S. strikes Khorasan Group in Syria". CNN. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
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- "What Is the "Khorasan Group" and Why Is the U.S. Bombing It in Syria?". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 23 September 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
- Greenwald, Glenn; Hussain, Murtaza (28 September 2014). "The fake terror threat used to justify bombing Syria". The Intercept. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
- "Report: Airstrikes target another Islamist group in Syria". CNN. 6 November 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
- "U.S. strike in Syria reportedly kills key bomb-maker". CNN. 6 November 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
- "US bombs Al-Qaeda offshoot Khorasan for third time". AFP. 13 November 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2014.
- "Syrian Army Lays a Huge Ambush on the Khorasan Group in Latakia". Al-Masdar News. 18 November 2014. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
- "Airstrikes Continue Against ISIL in Syria, Iraq". United States Department of Defense. 19 November 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
- "Airstrikes Continue Against ISIL in Syria, Iraq". United States Department of Defense. 1 December 2014. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
- Christophe Paulussen, Testing the Validity of US Self-Defence Arguments against the Khorasan Group in Syria (International Centre for Counter-Terrorism - The Hague, 2014)