NEW YORK (CNN) – ISIS has been grabbing all the headlines, but U.S. officials say an al Qaeda cell in Syria poses the most immediate and deadly threat to Americans.
It’s newer, even smaller bombs than the ones in these toothpaste tubes that have U.S. officials so concerned.
For the first time today an American intelligence official said publicly the government is worried about a terrorist cell in Syria, known as Khorasan, saying it is working with al Qaeda bomb makers to target U.S. flights.
The same bomb makers, including Ibrahim al Asiri, behind the failed 2009 underwear bomb on a Detroit bound plane and the bomb hidden in a printer cartridge on a cargo plane in 2010.
James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence said, “This Khorasan group, so-called out there is potentially, ah, yet another threat to the homeland.”
U.S. officials say Khorasan is made up of al Qaeda fighters who were fighting in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region. The worry is they are now in Syria working to recruit European and American foreign fighters who can use their passports to smuggle bombs onto U.S. bound airplanes.
Paul Cruickshank, CNN Terrorism Analyst said, “One of the operatives who’s moved from the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region to Syria is a Saudi-operative called Abdelrahman al Jahani. He is an experienced fighter, he was part of al Qaeda’s command structure in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region and a year or so ago he moved to Syria and according to the united states intelligence services, he’s involved in plotting attacks against western targets.”
Wednesday U.S. officials hinted at those same concerns telling congress al Qaeda affiliates are intent on targeting U.S. flights.
Over the past five years al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula has sought on three times to take down an airplane bound for the united states.
U.S. officials say there is fierce competition between al Qaeda and ISIS to be known as the biggest, baddest Jihadi organization.
“That would be a very, very worrying scenario indeed, if these two groups start to try and outdo each other to launch attacks back in the west. For al Qaeda, it would be a way to restore its relevance while ISIS is stealing all the headlines,” Matthew Olsen, Director of National Counterterrorism Center.
U.S. officials say the concern is that Khorason will try to outdo ISIS and grab some of the headlines back by launching an attack on the U.S. Intelligence officials say the group is seen as a more immediate threat to homeland security than ISIS.