May 26, 2015 | Quote
Canadians May Belong to Al-Qaida’s Highly Secretive Khorasan Faction, Intelligence Report Warns
The day after the United States and its Arab allies launched airstrikes in Syria last September, President Barack Obama advised American lawmakers the targets had included “elements of al-Qaida known as the Khorasan Group.”
Khorasan was described as a terrorist faction operating in Syria that had been set up by the senior al-Qaida leadership to recruit Westerners, train them and send them back to North America and Europe to conduct bombings.
Its highly secretive membership is said to include Kuwaiti, Saudi and French nationals — and according to a declassified intelligence report obtained by the National Post, federal officials are concerned that some of them are also Canadians.
“The Khorasan group may include individuals from Canada,” reads an intelligence brief that was distributed to front-line Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers after the air campaign began. A copy was released under the Access to Information Act.
While the current debate over Canada’s counterterrorism measures has focused largely on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), experts and officials say its rival, al-Qaida, has exploited the lawlessness in Syria to establish a beachhead on Europe’s doorstep from which to launch attacks.
The Canadian government identified this as a “major concern” last August in its 2014 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada, which warned that al-Qaida members were converging in Syria to “train other extremists for possible operations in Western countries.”
The Khorasan Group was established by the core al-Qaida leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which sent veteran fighters to Syria, where they “linked up with” the local al-Qaida affiliate, Jabhat-al-Nusrah, according to the CBSA report.
While some Khorasan members have participated in the fight against the Assad regime, their primary purpose is to set up training camps in areas under Jabhat-al-Nusrah control and “recruit, train and task Western foreign fighters” to conduct attacks against the West, it said.
Overseeing this assignment is 34-year-al-Qaida leader Muhsin Al-Fadhli, according to experts. A Kuwaiti who stands just 5-foot-5, Al-Fadhli fought with al-Qaida in Afghanistan, learned to use explosives in Chechnya, helped fund the insurgency in Iraq and was behind deadly attacks on a French ship, a U.S. Marines base and Saudi Arabia.
Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and senior editor of The Long War Journal, said that aside from Al-Fadhli, the group’s senior leadership included Sanafi al-Nasr and the recently-killed Adel al-Harbi.
Both Saudis and al-Qaida veterans formerly based in Iran, they played dual roles in Syria, helping the al-Qaida-affiliated anti-Assad forces while at the same time preparing for attacks in the West. “The Khorasan Group members actually service multiple functions inside Syria,” he said. “They’re both involved in the insurgency against Assad and plotting against the West. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive in the way they’re designed.”
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