New Khorasan "Wolf Unit" Details Emerge

Jean Moussa, a reporter with Arabic Al Aan TV, got a crew inside the the bombed out buildings at Al Reef Muhandeseen Aleppo, which the U.S. says were the headquarters for the Khorasan Group. Killed in the blasts were 50 Jabhat al Nusrah fighters, including Jabhat al Nusra's chief sniper, trainer and al Qaida veteran, Abu Yousuf al Turki, who the U.S. says was a leader of the Khorasan Group.

Moussa's crew found a document in the rubble with the names of 14 fighters, 13 of whom were with the "Wolf Unit" of Jabhat al Nusra. [More...]

According to the document, the Wolf Unit was led by Abu Yusuf al Turki, the famous Jabhat al Nusra sniper who was killed in the American airstrikes on the compound in Reef Al Muhandaseen. Judging by the names on the list, Four of the fourteen are Turks, two Egyptians, two Yemeni, two Tunisians, one Palestinian, one Serbian, one from the Caucasus.

As to the significance, she writes:

Based on the pictures and documents we can conclude the following: What the Americans call Khorasan, is in fact the Wolf Unit and other groups of foreign fighters within Jabhat al Nusra.

...Pakistan and Afghanistan and are now present inside Syria under the banner of Jabhat Al Nusra According to a source, a total of three buildings in the provenance Reef AlMuhandeseen were targeted: Two villas and one training camp. Seven other Jabhat Al Nusra villas in the area were not bombed. A total of 50 members of Jabhat al Nusra died in the air raids, 200 escaped alive.

In the video accompanying her article, which aired on the news, Moussa shows scenes from a training camp video she found on the internet called "Al Qaida in Syria, The Wolf Snipers." She doesn't give a link, but War in Context found it, and Long War Journal posted a link to it on Sept. 23 (without the reference to "the Wolf Group" that appears in the opening credits, right after "Al Qaida Snipers, Jabhat al Nusra.")

It appears the video was posted originally by al Ribat Media but taken down for violating You Tube's terms of service (even though there is no violence in it.)

Of course, it was no secret that al Zawahiri had sent Pakistani, Afghan and Chechen fighters to Syria to join Jabhat al Nusra. Here's a report from November, 2013. Here a recent Long War Journal report on it.

As to why the U.S. made up the "Khorasan" group name, there are many theories, including this one from Glenn Greenwald, with which War in Context takes issue.

The U.S. has previously identified two of these Khorasan leaders (Mushin al Fadli and Sanafi al Nasr). Al Fadhli and al Nasr are on designated terrorist sanctions lists. They and others have long term involvement in al Qaida and expressed intentions to attack Americans and Europeans. Al Fadhli and al Nasr were reportedly leaders of al Qaida in Iran and the U.S. believes they (and other associates) operated with the agreement of the Iranian Government. Their role in Iran was to raise money and recruit for al Qaida, often using Turkey as a route to Syria. Both al Fahdli and al Nasr allegedly had bomb-making experience. I wrote about this last week and posted a link to a video of a bomb-making class at a camp of Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar (JAMWA) in Aleppo, published by Akhbar Sham in March, 2014. Check at 5 minutes in, there's an explosives making class and they then go plant some outside and blow them up.

Al Fadhli left Iran for Syria in 2013-- see this very interesting Arab Times article about how he trained young recruits to do suicide bomb attacks.

Al-Fadhli lives in north of Syria, where he is in control of al-Qaeda. He entices and recruits jihadists from among the European Muslim youths, or from those who embrace Islam. After choosing the youths, he trains them on how to execute terror operations in the western countries, focusing mostly on means of public transportation such as trains and airplanes. His activities were also focused on directing the al-Qaeda elements to execute operations against four main targets, which are Assad’s military, the Free Syrian Army, the ‘Islamic Front’ and ‘Da’esh’. Sources revealed that Al- Fadhli supports ‘Al-Nusra Front’ against ‘Da’esh’, especially after the Al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammad Al-Joulani declared his loyalty to al- Qaeda group in April last year.

Still unresolved is whether Muhsin al-Fadhli also died in the strike that killed al Turki. As Long War Journal has pointed out , Sanafi al Nasr, who is also prominent in the Khorasan Group posted on Twitter that al Fadlhi was killed in the strike, but he has a history of false reporting deaths, including his own, for strategic reasons. His twitter feed, still active, is here.

As for al Turki, he left Turkey for Syria just two months ago. But he, too, has a long history. He was arrested for a planned suicide attack at a NATO meeting in 2004 which both Tony Blair and George Bush planned to attend in Istanbul. The plan was to kill Bush. At the time he was a member of the al Qaida linked Ansar al Sham terror group. He was ultimately acquitted, but provided this explanation to a news agency: “We hated and cursed the offensive policies of US and Israel.”

These AQ/Nusra fighters now being called Khorasan were tracked for a long time. Their alliances, including with AQAP, were known. The U.S. says there was intelligence information the group was imminently about to launch some kind of bomb attack in the U.S., and it wanted to strike them before it went underground. (See also here.)

In July, 2013, the Pakistani Taliban from the Khorasan region sent fighters to Syria. As I wrote weeks ago, there are so many factions from the Khorasan region, it's hard to keep them straight.

There was this one. A few weeks ago, a splinter group formed named Jamaat-ul-Ahrar TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan). On 9/11, according to a news article, Tehrik-e-Taliban Jamaat ul Ahrar sent out a notice saying it was going to fulfill Osama bin Laden's promise. In 2013, the Taliban said a group of Pakistani and Afghan jihadists went to Syria to "monitor Jihad." Then there's this article, which says the Pakistani contingent went to train ISIS fighters. And Reuters says the new group supports ISIS.

While the news of "the Wolf Group" is interesting, and it seems to be the group the U.S. was aiming for in its recent airstrikes, it doesn't seem like it was the only group from the Khorasan region that went to Syria on behalf of al Qaida.

The sniper training was conducted by Abu Yousuf al Turki, who is aligned with the Afghan faction. Did the group also do explosives training, or was that a different fighter faction from the Pakistan area of the Khorasan region, that also worked within Iran? Or did they all operate as one group when they reached Syria? Maybe someone could clear this up. I doubt I'm the only one confused.

Chechens in Syria posts some more videos of the Wolf Unit led by Abu Yousuf al Turki. In this one, posted in August, 2014, Abu Yousuf al Turki explains the Wolf sniper camp, including the costumes (it's not in English so I can't understand what he is saying.) It was filmed by Muhammad Isra, a pro-jihad Turkish blogger/videographer with ties to Jabhat al-Nusra. He writes for the Turkish based website Ummet-i Islam. Here's one of his articles on Abu Yousuf al Turki (use Google translate.)

Here's another video of the camp from May, 2014.

In any event, the name "Khorasan Group" still seems likely to have been coined by Obama and intelligence officials. And we still haven't seen the evidence that the bomb plots the U.S. feared in February, 2014, which were believed to have been guided by AQAP in Yemen, were in the final stages within the past month and an imminent threat. Which leaves the question, were these strikes just more mission creep? They certainly weren't aimed at ISIS. Are we just going to be in a perpetual war against every Islamic extremist group?

< OK Seeks Death Penalty for Beheading Suspect | Fox's Gracepoint No Match for Broadchurch >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    That is interesting information and (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Green26 on Thu Oct 02, 2014 at 06:28:38 PM EST
    impressive research on your part. Thank you very much. You are making my high school son look good in the current events portion of AP Government.

    Agreed... (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by TH71 on Thu Oct 02, 2014 at 07:39:33 PM EST
    Very interesting stuff. Thanks for putting this post together Jeralyn.

    thanks, I've been working on it (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Oct 02, 2014 at 08:41:40 PM EST
    for over a week. This is probably my 8th draft, and I cut a lot out to make it a reasonable length. I recommend reading the articles and documents I linked to for the full picture. And the videos are really worth watching.

    Also the Treasury and UN Notices of designated terrorists have aliases for the persons named, making it a little easier to figure out who is who. Their descriptions of the listed persons are helpful, as is the time line of who was listed when.


    Interesting post (none / 0) (#2)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Oct 02, 2014 at 06:43:11 PM EST
    And that's a great pic (none / 0) (#3)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Oct 02, 2014 at 06:56:12 PM EST
    some serious outfits

    Not serious outfits (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Oct 03, 2014 at 01:28:43 PM EST
    And everyone in the US military is making fun of the patch.  Can't they get a graphic designer?  Most of the impoverished graphic street artists come up with amazing patch designs for their units, but hey...terrorists can't have everything.

    But only one thread color?  The bill tallied for manufacturing your patch after base price goes up based on how many thread colors must be used.


    And it's even worse (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Oct 03, 2014 at 01:43:24 PM EST
    According to spouse those are woodland suits. They make cheap desert too but these rocket scientists......where's the woods around there?

    It does not work to wear woodland in Syria.  Special operations easily follows you and knows where you are, obviously.


    Serious can mean different things (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by CaptHowdy on Fri Oct 03, 2014 at 06:53:27 PM EST
    like, I would seriously like to have one.  The grass in the desert thing did occurs to me.  They look really hot.  

    A real sniper suit (none / 0) (#23)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Oct 03, 2014 at 11:47:48 PM EST
    has a lot to it, like technology that hides your heat signature.

    Our military is very high tech now pertaining to heat signatures.  They can tell often how close to death someone who is wounded is too using their heat signature.

    Just one of many features unavailable for $50.00 on Amazon.  So if these guys are out there during the day and a drone flies over they are bigfoot in the desert.  At night they are just that guy right over there.

    Part of training as a sniper is hiding in one too, and your friends are out there looking for you and they know you are in it and you have to evade or even sneak up on them.  The only way that can happen in Syria in these is if everyone else is blind.  So their sniper school was obviously lacking in working curriculum.

    I hope they did have some new explosive developments.  I don't doubt they did.  A couple of boys in the garage usually have 50 subpar or bad ideas and one humdinger.  But I can almost hear someone at the meeting deciding to hit them arguing that this had better be worth losing the sniper school over because we consider the sniper school one of our assets.


    MY nephew has one of those (none / 0) (#27)
    by CaptHowdy on Sat Oct 04, 2014 at 07:40:01 AM EST
    hunting things.   It really doesn't look like that.  

    If I had one i would borrow an assault rifle as be "Cousin Hit" for Halloween.


    Some of them are labeled (none / 0) (#28)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Oct 04, 2014 at 07:48:58 AM EST
    Hunting some say sniper, but they are not the equivalent of a US military sniper suit or probably those of any of the worlds professional militaries.  And the exact suits in the photo are available on Amazon right now.

    Ok (none / 0) (#29)
    by CaptHowdy on Sat Oct 04, 2014 at 07:59:43 AM EST
    i googled.  Setting aside that it's disturbing that Amazon sells sniper suits they are more Swamp Thing than Cousin It.  

    Pretty cool but I still prefer the ones above.


    Also (none / 0) (#30)
    by CaptHowdy on Sat Oct 04, 2014 at 08:02:17 AM EST
    i probably just earned a spot on an NSA watch list for googling "sniper suits"

    I doubt it Capt (none / 0) (#31)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Oct 04, 2014 at 09:17:17 AM EST
    You have zero other red flags.  If you were going to tweak you would have done it a long time ago :)  You are tweakproof.

    Question: (none / 0) (#6)
    by lentinel on Thu Oct 02, 2014 at 09:06:26 PM EST
    Are we just going to be in a perpetual war against every Islamic extremist group?

    And if we run out of Islamic extremist groups, we'll find some other extremist group to keep us busy and our corporate underwriters happy.

    Should I recognize the photo? (none / 0) (#7)
    by oculus on Thu Oct 02, 2014 at 09:28:21 PM EST

    Did those guys make their debut (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by Peter G on Thu Oct 02, 2014 at 10:12:22 PM EST
    in one of the Lord of the Rings movies, or perhaps it was Lord of the Flies?

    You mean they aren't "cousins" (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by nycstray on Fri Oct 03, 2014 at 12:04:29 AM EST
    from Duck Dynasty?

    The Halloween aisle (none / 0) (#9)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Oct 02, 2014 at 10:30:48 PM EST
    At Walmart

    Enough jokes about (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Oct 03, 2014 at 02:19:42 AM EST
    the costumes. They are for real, and look quite elaborate close up. They are obviously designed as camouflage, to blend in with the terrain.

    Some more photos: here, and here and here. They also have a lot of equipment.


    American snipers wear the same stuff. (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Oct 03, 2014 at 03:49:26 AM EST
    thanks, here's a picture from that link (none / 0) (#15)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Oct 03, 2014 at 09:35:02 AM EST
    of American snipers wearing the same thing.

    Not the same thing (none / 0) (#19)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Oct 03, 2014 at 01:18:14 PM EST
    Professional camouflage suit verses Amazon.

    OMG Jeralyn (none / 0) (#18)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Oct 03, 2014 at 01:16:54 PM EST
    A ghillie suit came to the stands of the last Enterprise HS football game.  I bet the guy was dying in it, but those would be his issues. You can get a crappy one like the ones in the photos and the one that came to the football game last Friday on Amazon for $50.00.

    I doubt ISIS orders from Amazon (none / 0) (#24)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Oct 04, 2014 at 03:13:52 AM EST
    You think they are dumb enough to pay with a credit card and provide a mailing address? I don't. The suits look professionally sewed, close up. And the head sniper in the video I linked to spends quite a few minutes describing them, so I doubt they are just thrown together. Maybe the wives make them, I don't know. But I don't think they are trashy versions from the up close big pictures.

    Jeralyn (none / 0) (#25)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Oct 04, 2014 at 07:22:35 AM EST
    These exact suits are on Amazon right now, and they are for hunting game..not battlefields.  A US drone will see these guys in these suits immediately.

    And I do question how intelligent (none / 0) (#26)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Oct 04, 2014 at 07:33:40 AM EST
    These guys are.  They got away with what they got away based on the Syrian civil war, disenfranchised Sunnis, and having the ability to do the lowest most disgusting things that could be imagined.

    Bullies are seldom smart.  They don't develop that skill because they are convinced they don't have to.

    Some of them survived organizations that tangled with the US military at one point, but does this organization have what is required to survive the professional militaries of the world?  No!  And it's going to take more than trying to mimic those professional militaries to have a chance.

    And, ISIL would have had the world on its side if it wasn't made up of the lowest life forms on the planet committing atrocities so extreme it was at first stupefying.


    It's (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Ga6thDem on Fri Oct 03, 2014 at 08:08:13 AM EST
    Duck Dynasty!

    Priceless (none / 0) (#17)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Oct 03, 2014 at 01:11:27 PM EST
    I like reading your summary of the (none / 0) (#13)
    by ruffian on Fri Oct 03, 2014 at 04:37:52 AM EST
    groups and operations, and Greenwald's roundup of the media manipulation. The 'War in Context' piece provides yet another angle. I see it more as an addition to Greenwald, even though the author sees it as a contradiction. I think the intelligence community is quite capable of trying to manipulate Americans and fool Syrians at the same time.

    thanks for pulling it all together. Was up early this morning and finally had time to catch up on all this.

    Yes, I believe this is the case, for (none / 0) (#16)
    by KeysDan on Fri Oct 03, 2014 at 10:55:12 AM EST
    Paul Woodward's ideas are, essentially, a graft unto Greenwald's position.  Standing alone, Woodward's criticism of Greenwald "missing the point," leaves his thesis without a point.

    Moreover, Woodward's relegation of Greenwald's Khorasan as a pretext for bombing as part of a conspiracy theory is not refuted well--he sets up the case (that the average American is no more familiar with al-Nusra than Khorasan) and does not successfully knock it down.  Leaving it standing.

    In my view, the Khorsan group was also useful  to bolster legal justification because an al-Qaeda-ish foe helped to dust off and put to use the AUMF(s) of 2002 and 2003, as I presented in a comment posted September 29.