US Sees Rising Threat in the West From Qaeda Branch in Syria
Hurras al-Din, an al Qaeda affiliate in northwestern Syria, is plotting attacks on Western countries and poses a serious threat, US counterterrorism officials warn. Earlier this year, Washington’s concern about the rise of Hurras al-Din in Syria even prompted it to seek official permission by Russia to carry out airstrikes on the group in Syrian provinces controlled by Russian and Syrian forces. Moscow granted the request.
The United Nations recently estimated that Hurras al-Din has “between 1,500 and 2,000 fighters, half of whom are foreign terrorist fighters.” According to Colin P. Clarke of the Soufan Cente, the group represents “an opportunity Al Qaeda can use to put them back on the map.” Nathan A. Sales of the US State Department’s counterterrorism bureau recently stated that “Al Qaeda has been strategic and patient over the past several years,” adding that the group “ let ISIS absorb the brunt of the world’s counterterrorism efforts while patiently reconstituting itself.”