Among the list of targets for the ongoing United States-led airstrikes in Syria was the little known group of experienced militants linked to al-Qaeda who are said to be in the country for almost two years.
The US has targeted the Khorasan group because it had reportedly plotted an 'imminent' attack on the Western countries, using the current Syrian conflict as a launch-pad for its operations.
The US state department described the group as "a network of seasoned al-Qaeda veterans," which has "established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit westerners to conduct operations," the statement said.
The US is currently focused on destroying the bases of the Islamic State, but security officials are of the view that the immediate ambition of the Khorasan group is to consolidate its powers in Syria and Iraq. This has shifted the American focus to another entity that would reportedly pose a greater threat in the near future.
For al-Qaeda and its affiliates, striking the West remains its crucial strategy and the US airstrikes first aimed at targeting the Khorasan group, which according to intelligence, had planned an attack in a western country, possibly the US, various officials have said.
"We had very good indications that this dangerous group was plotting and planning imminent attacks on Western targets, including the US homeland," Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby said. "It was on this basis that we struck Khorasan targets inside Syria."
"We believe that the individuals that were plotting and planning it (the attacks) have been eliminated and we're going to continue... to assess the effectiveness of our strikes going through today," he added.
The hardly-known militant outfit is believed to possess cutting-edge bomb-making abilities, all thanks to al-Qaeda's affiliate. The US officials are particularly worried because of the group's capabilities and their Western recruits, who could potentially cross the borders.
The group, which consists of about 50 deadly fighters, has been holed up in Aleppo under the protection and blessings of al-Qaeda's official wing in the country, Jabhat al-Nusra, which gave them the ability to make cutting-edge weapons of terror, reports said.
One member of the network is believed to be Muhsin al-Fadhli, a 33-year-old Kuwaiti man who raised funds and organised logistics for the outfit's fighters in Syria, reports have noted. According to the Kuwait-based Arab Times, he is the de facto leader of al-Qaeda in Syria.
A second senior figure is Abd al-Rahman Muhammad Zafir al-Dubaysi al-Junni who reportedly worked as chief of security at al-Qaeda's central governing council. He was responsible for counter-intelligence before swapping Pakistan for Syria last year where he was "working...to acquire heavy weaponry and trainers to support al-Qaeda efforts in Syria," according to the US authorities, the Guardian reports.