Al Qaeda groups and ISIS both targeted in Syria by U.S. strikes

The Wall Street Journal reports: The first U.S. airstrikes inside Syria, announced by the Pentagon on Monday night, went beyond hitting the Islamic State militant group, also targeting a second extremist group that U.S. officials say represents a more direct threat to the U.S. homeland.

The U.S. targeted camps and other buildings in Syria used by the Khorasan group, whose members have plotted attacks against Western airliners, officials said.

The strikes appear to represent an expansion of the U.S. mission beyond the goals outlined by President Barack Obama earlier this month, when he said U.S. military action would be designed to roll back the territorial gains made by Islamic State militants.

U.S. officials have viewed Khorasan with growing alarm in recent weeks and some have said it would be irresponsible to strike in Syria and not take aim at an al Qaeda affiliate long considered to be dangerous to the U.S. and its allies.

Islamic State militants are seen as primarily focused on taking and holding territory in Iraq and Syria, with attacks on the U.S. representing a secondary goal. It severed its ties with al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan.

Khorasan, on the other hand, has followed the direction of al Qaeda leadership and made strikes on U.S. targets its prime focus. Khorasan’s plotting against airliners to target the U.S. prompted the U.S. to step up airline security over the summer, a U.S. official said.

The U.S. military said Tuesday that it conducted eight strikes against the Khorasan group. Unlike overnight strikes conducted against Islamic State targets, which involved Arab countries, the operations against Khorasan were conducted only by U.S. forces. A Pentagon announcement said the Khorasan group was using Syria as a safe haven to develop “external attacks” construct improvised bombs and recruit westerners and was in the advanced stages of planning. [Continue reading…]

Reuters adds: Fifty Al Qaida-linked Nusra Front fighters were killed in strikes over the course of the morning in the northwestern province of Syria. Eight civilians, including three children, were also among the fatalities in the strikes on Aleppo.

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