The U.S. military launched airstrikes late Wednesday night against five Khorasan Group targets, the second time it has bombed the group since it started operations in Syria in late September.
Central Command, which oversees military activities in Iraq and Syria, said in a statement Thursday that the strikes around Sarmada, a city in northwestern Syria, were intended to stop the group’s ability to carry out a terrorist attack in the United States or Europe.
Central Command said it believes the strikes severely damaged “several Khorasan Group vehicles and buildings assessed to be meeting and staging areas, IED-making facilities, and training facilities.”
David Drugeon, a Frenchman believed to have been developing bombs for the group, was also reportedly killed in the strikes, but Central Command has yet to confirm his death.
The United States previously targeted the little-known al-Qaida affiliate in late September in an effort to stop an “imminent attack.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said U.S. airstrikes also targeted the Nusra Front, another group linked to al-Qaida.
How the Pentagon distinguishes between the two al-Qaida backed groups has at times been unclear.
Central Command tried to clarify Thursday who it considers the Khorasan Group to be, saying that the “Khorasan Group is a term used to refer to a network of Nusra Front and al-Qaida core extremists who share a history of training operatives, facilitating fighters and money, and planning attacks against U.S. and Western targets.”
Analysts have said that al-Nusra is largely focused on overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and setting up an Islamic state in Syria. The Khorasan Group, however, is focused on planning and carrying out attacks against the West.
Central Command added that the airstrikes were not in response to recent gains made by the Nusra Front in northern Syria, and they did not target the Nusra Front “as a whole.”