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Khorasan group (Syria)

Last modified: 2020-07-31 by ian macdonald
Keywords: syria | rebels | khorasan | nusra |
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[Jabhat al Nusra rebels (Syria)]
image located by William Garrison, 26 June 2013

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Within al-Nusra, there's the Khorasan group. "Khorasan, also known as the Khorasan Group, refers to a group of senior al-Qaeda members who operate in Syria. The group is 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 the Islamic State."
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. 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 exists as a distinct entity. Khorasan is a historical term for a region overlapping modern-day Afghanistan and Iran. 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" (about 50 members total), 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.
There are indications that some members of the Khorasan Group were part of an elite sniper subunit of the al-Nusra Front that was known as the Wolf Group; it was also called al-Qaeda Snipers.
A 23 September 2014 article by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace stated that "the 'Khorasan Group' is a term that gained currency only in the past two weeks", noting 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.""
Their flag is the same flag as al-Nusra's flag:
Esteban Rivera, 15 November 2014