A cell of seasoned al-Qaeda fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan has joined forces with al-Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate to pilot innovative methods aimed at smuggling explosives onto U.S.-bound airliners, according to U.S. officials.
Citing unnamed U.S. officials and classified intelligence assessments, the Associated Press revealed that the group’s brutal Yemen affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has been working with an al-Qaeda offshoot from Afghanistan and Pakistan known as the Khorasan group.
A U.S. official said the al-Qaeda coalition is contriving ways to pack uncharged telephones and laptops with “hard-to-detect explosives” that can dodge airport security and detonate unimpeded.
“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,” said AP.
Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri reportedly sent the Khorasan extremists into Syria to enlist Americans and Europeans who possess passports that facilitate boarding planes en route to the U.S.
According to an anonymous U.S. official, in a direct response to information on the cooperation between the Khorasan group and AQAP, the U.S.Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in July, moved to prohibit passengers from bringing uncharged devices onto U.S.-bound flights coming from Europe and the Middle East.
AQAP has already placed three bombs on U.S.-bound planes, but ultimately failed in bringing the airliners down.
The Khorasan cadre of fighters was recently described by the Los Angeles Times as a ruthless wing of the Pakistani Taliban clique led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur charged with intelligence gathering.
In a July 15 article, the Los Angleles Times provided a glimpse into the group’s vicious tactics, revealing how it has killed an undetermined number of civilians in their own torture chambers and detention centers.
The group “recorded confessional statements by those accused of spying. Beheaded bodies were found hanging from trees, bearing warnings not to bury them for three days, contravening Islamic custom.”
“A doctor who said he had treated fighters said the militants devised new techniques to terrorize residents,” also mentioned the LA Times, gruesomely adding:
One morning he saw 29 human heads placed in a row outside the government hospital in Miram Shah, opposite a security base. Later, militants began kicking the heads.
During his weekly address delivered on September 13, President Obama alleged that his administration has inflicted damage upon the core al-Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
“Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, we took out Osama bin Laden, much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and leaders of al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia,” said Obama. “We’ve prevented terrorist attacks, saved American lives and made our homeland more secure.”
However, the AP article highlighted that the al-Qaeda movement still poses a threat to the West.
Furthermore in January, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate panel that the expansion of al-Qaeda’s ideology through its affiliates makes the terrorist group a “formidable threat.”
Of concern to intelligence officials are the score of Americans and Europeans who have gone joined the fight on the side of various extremist factions in Syria.
“Some of those Westerners’ identities are unknown and therefore they are less likely to draw the attention of intelligence officials when they purchase tickets and board a crowded jetliner heading for European and American cities,” warned the AP report.
The Khorasan group went into Syria to link up with the al-Qaeda branch there, the Nusra Front.
According to The Long War Journal, Khorasan “refers to a region that encompasses large areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Iran. Jihadists consider the Khorasan to be the area where they will inflict the first defeat against their enemies in the Muslim version of Armageddon. The final battle is to take place in the Levant – Israel, Syria, and Lebanon.”