Late on Monday evening, many Americans went to bed knowing that the U.S.-led offensive against ISIS had officially expanded into Syria for the first time with a series of airstrikes against Islamic State installations. The following morning, the first rumblings emerged about another terrorist cell that had been the target of the American efforts: the Khorasan Group.
Reactions varied from bemusement to outright skepticism. So who are these guys? The group, said to be named for a leadership council within al-Qaeda, has been described a cell of al-Qaeda veterans who were plotting an "imminent" strike on American or European targets, hence the sudden action by U.S. forces. As the Times reported:
Several officials said Khorasan had an advanced plan for an attack involving a bomb that could pass undetected through airport security systems, perhaps by lacing nonmetallic objects like toothpaste tubes and clothes with explosive material, although officials offered no details in public and did not provide specifics on how soon an attack might be carried out.
In the aftermath of the airstrikes, eight of which targeted the group, no one seems to know if the attacks had taken out Muhsin al-Fadhli, the group's supposed leader and an al-Qaeda operative. As National Security Adviser Susan Rice told NBC:
“We can’t confirm that at this stage. We’ve seen reports on social media to that effect. We will continue to look for signs as to whether or not that’s, in fact, the case.”
What also seems to be a matter of conjecture is just how serious the threat was.