US officials: Terrorist group was nearing attack

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
13 PHOTOS
Khorasan Group
See Gallery
US officials: Terrorist group was nearing attack
Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville, Jr., Director of Operations J3, speaks about the operations in Syria, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, during a news conference at the Pentagon. In a separate action from the air strikes against the Islamic State group, the U.S. bombed a cell of al Qaida militants in northwestern Syria after concluding they were close to attacking the U.S. or Europe, Pentagon officials say. Mayville, the Pentagon’s operations chief, said that the Khorasan Group was nearing “the execution phase of an attack either in Europe or the homeland." (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville, Jr., Director of Operations J3, speaks about the operations in Syria, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, during a news conference at the Pentagon. In a separate action from the air strikes against the Islamic State group, the U.S. bombed a cell of al Qaida militants in northwestern Syria after concluding they were close to attacking the U.S. or Europe, Pentagon officials say. Mayville, the Pentagon’s operations chief, said that the Khorasan Group was nearing “the execution phase of an attack either in Europe or the homeland." (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
A group of Afghan refugees leave Iran, heading back to Afghanistan, at the Dogharoun border in Khorasan province in northeast Iran, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2001. More than 300 Afghan refugees voluntarily returned to their homeland Sunday. The Iranian border with Afghanistan was closed last month. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
ARLINGTON, VA - SEPTEMBER 23: Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr. speaks about the Syrian bombing campaign September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. Mayville talked about the U.S. and Arab air strikes in Syria against the jihadist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - SEPTEMBER 23: Syrians collect their belongings from the rubble of destroyed houses following the U.S.-led coalition's airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on a residential area in Idlib, Syria on September 23, 2014. (Photo by Ahmed Hasan Ubeyd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the recent airstrikes against ISIS on the South Lawn of the White House on September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. American jets began bombing ISIS targets in Syria early Tuesday and focused on the stronghold of Raqqa. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Paratroopers patrols under the Eiffel Tower on September 23, 2014 in Paris, a day after the radical Islamic State group, which controls large areas of Iraq and Syria, called on Muslims to kill citizens of countries taking part in the US-led coalition against the jihadists, which includes France. AFP PHOTO LIONEL BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the recent airstrikes against ISIS on the South Lawn of the White House on September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. American jets began bombing ISIS targets in Syria early Tuesday and focused on the stronghold of Raqqa. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 23: Syrians fleeing from clashes between Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants and Democratic Union Party (PYD) forces in the Tal Abyad diistrict of Syria's Al-Raggah Governorate, cross into Suruc district of southeastern city Sanliurfa, Turkey on September 23, 2014. (Photo by Ibrahim Erikan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 23: A Turkish police inspects a Syrian fleeing from clashes between Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants and Democratic Union Party (PYD) forces in the Tal Abyad diistrict of Syria's Al-Raggah Governorate while crossing into Suruc district of southeastern city Sanliurfa, Turkey on September 23, 2014. (Photo by Ibrahim Erikan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 23: A Syrian baby is seen as Syrians fleeing from clashes between Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants and Democratic Union Party (PYD) forces in the Tal Abyad diistrict of Syria's Al-Raggah Governorate, cross into Suruc district of southeastern city Sanliurfa, Turkey on September 23, 2014. (Photo by Ibrahim Erikan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 23: Syrians fleeing from clashes between Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants and Democratic Union Party (PYD) forces in the Tal Abyad diistrict of Syria's Al-Raggah Governorate, cross into Suruc district of southeastern city Sanliurfa, Turkey on September 23, 2014. (Photo by Ibrahim Erikan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - SEPTEMBER 23: Syrians are seen at the borderline in Suruc province of Sanliurfa, Turkey on September 23, 2014 as the Syrians fled from clashes between the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) militants and pro-Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) forces, continue to cross into Turkey. Ibrahim Erikan / Anadolu Agency
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION


By KEN DILANIAN

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama's decision to order airstrikes against an al-Qaida cell in Syria known as the Khorasan Group was based on intelligence suggesting that the group was close to carrying out a terror plot against the U.S. or Europe, administration officials said Tuesday.

On the same night that U.S. and Arab allies carried out more than 200 airstrikes against the Islamic State group, the U.S. alone launched strikes against eight Khorasan Group targets near Aleppo in northwestern Syria, Pentagon officials say.

Briefing reporters at the Pentagon, Lt. Gen. William Mayville, who directs operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Khorasan Group was nearing "the execution phase of an attack either in Europe or the homeland."

Last week, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said the Khorasan Group posed a "potential threat." But senior Obama administration officials, briefing reporters Tuesday under ground rules that they not be identified, said the intelligence was both more precise and more dire than Clapper suggested.

"We were monitoring active plotting that posed an imminent threat to the United States and potentially our allies," one official said. "That was the united view of our intelligence community."

The Khorasan Group, which consists of al-Qaida veterans who fought in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is focused on attacking the West, not the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Mayville said.

Obama Announces Airstrikes Against Khorasan Group

"We know that the Khorasan Group has attempted to recruit Westerners to serve as operatives or to infiltrate back into their homelands," he said. "The Khorasan Group is clearly not focused on either the Assad regime or the Syrian people. They are establishing roots in Syria in order to advance attacks against the West and the homeland."

Mayville added that it was too early to describe the effects of the strikes against Khorasan Group targets, or say who may have been killed.

A senior administration official said the plan to strike the Khorasan Group "is something that has been on our radar for several months and it is an action that we were contemplating separate and apart from" the airstrikes against Islamic State group positions in Syria.

While the Islamic State group has broken from al-Qaida, the Khorasan Group consists of veteran operatives known to U.S. intelligence officials.

The Associated Press first reported September 13 that U.S. intelligence officials had identified the Khorasan Group as a top threat, in part because the group had been working with bomb makers from al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate to test new explosive devices that could go undetected by Western airport security measures.

A senior Obama administration official confirmed that the group had been testing bombs at its Syrian camps. The official said the Transportation Security Administration's decision to ban uncharged laptops and cellphones from certain flights, and other enhanced security measures, was prompted by the Khorasan threat.

A U.S. official briefed on intelligence confirmed reports that the group is led by Muhsin al-Fadhli, a Kuwaiti who spent time in Iran and has long been identified as a significant al-Qaida player. U.S. officials said they did not know whether he was killed in the American airstrikes.

More AOL Content:
Man charged with same crime 4 times in a row
When ISIS rose up, this is how Obama reacted
Read Full Story

People are Reading