US led coalition hits on sites for three Islamic militant groups in Syria
Beirut ( Agencies + DIPLOMAT.SO) – The U.S.led coalition carried out airstrikes overnight Wednesday to Thursday, including one apparently targeting a vehicle belonging to Nusra Front in Sarmada, a town also in Idlib province on the border with Turkey.
Video posted by activists purported to show a car in flames on the street in Sarmada while people watched it burn.
The coalition also struck the headquarters of al-Nusra Front in the city of Harim, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, with initial reports indicating that two children were killed and other people were injured.
Photos posted by activists claimed to show the bodies of two young children covered in dust with severe injuries, along with other men being treated by doctors in a clinic.
Diplomat News Network has not independently verified the images.
Like ISIS, al-Nusra Front is trying to establish an Islamic state, though primarily in Syria. It has emerged as one of the most effective groups fighting the Syrian regime, drawing on foreign fighters with combat experience in Iraq and elsewhere.
At least six militants from al-Nusra were also killed in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike in the western part of Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday, citing reliable sources in the embattled city in northwestern Syria.
The airstrike also caused massive damage to the group’s local headquarters in an area known as al-Muhameen, in the western Aleppo countryside, according to the monitoring group.
Air strikes against Ahrar al-Sham, another hardline Islamist insurgent group.
Airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS targeted the Islamist rebel group Ahrar al Sham for the first time overnight in Syria, a monitoring group said Thursday.
One airstrike hit the headquarters for Ahrar al Sham in Babsaqa, Idlib province, near the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Activist video and photos from the scene claimed to show a large explosion and a building blown into rubble.
Ahrar al Sham is a Sunni Muslim group that is not on the U.S. list of designated terrorist organizations and so far has not been hit by coalition airstrikes.
One of the more conservative Sunni militant groups in the rebel alliance, Ahrar al Sham has members that sometimes fight alongside the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, but against ISIS.
They are not linked to al Qaeda, have not pledged allegiance to al Qaeda, and are not named as a terror group by the United States.
There are mixed opinions on how radical the group is, mostly because its entire leadership was killed in a September blast and the new leadership’s intentions are not yet clear, although some observers anticipate a more radical direction.
This may have prompted concern in some quarters that it could become more closely allied to Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as al-Nusra Front, which has been gaining ground in Syria.
However, Ahrar members are also seen by many Syrians as moderates who protect them — and these strikes, if they did hit Ahrar, risk again confirming the idea that the United States is seeking to benefit the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Air strikes against Khorasan militants
The United States said it conducted air strikes on Wednesday night against the so-called Khorasan Group of Al-Qaida-linked militants based in Syria, saying the group was plotting to attack Europe or the United States.
“We took decisive action to protect our interests and remove their capability to act,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement on Thursday.
It said the strikes, carried out by the U.S. military against five Khorasan targets, “resulted in the intended effects by striking terrorists.”
The air strikes also hit the group’s vehicles and buildings as well as bomb-making and training facilities, according to the statement. An earlier U.S.-led air strike aimed at the group in September is believed to have failed to kill one of its top leaders as had been hoped by Washington.
While the Islamic State group is getting the most attention now, another band of extremists in Syria – a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe – poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation, American officials say.
At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran Al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the Al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.
But the Khorasan militants did not go to Syria principally to fight the government of President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say. Instead, they were sent by Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.
In addition, according to classified U.S. intelligence assessments, the Khorasan militants have been working with bomb-makers from Al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate to test new ways to slip explosives past airport security. The fear is that the Khorasan militants will provide these sophisticated explosives to their Western recruits who could sneak them onto U.S.-bound flights.
The Obama administration has said that the Islamic State group, the target of more than 150 U.S. airstrikes in recent weeks, does not pose an imminent threat to the continental U.S. The Khorasan group, which has not been subject to American military action, is considered the more immediate threat.For more news and stories, join us on Facebook,Twitter , or contact us through our Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com