In recent days, US officials have indicated that the US plans on carrying out strikes against the Syrian government to punish it for its most recent chemical weapons attack. While some jihadist groups are threatening to avenge the recent attacks by the Syrian regime in Eastern Ghouta, members of jihadi forums are expressing concern over the likely US strikes.
A notice posted by an administrator of the Ansar al Mujahideen English Forum, which was obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group, warned that impending US strikes in Syria may not be limited to targets tied to the Syrian regime, but may also target jihadists operating in the country.
The posting suggested that after initial strikes on regime targets, missiles will target training centers tied to the Al Nusrah Front as well as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. In addition, leaders of “prominent Islamist battalions” and “Shariah courts” would be targeted, the posting alleged.
“Independent Islamist groups have been urged to change their locations and to remain extremely alert for signs of forthcoming US attacks,” the notice said.
The probability of the jihadist fears coming to fruition in the coming days appears unlikely, according to current press reports. As the Washington Post noted on Aug. 26, the Obama administration is likely going to carry out an operation “of limited scope and duration.” And according to the New York Times, the current target list is no more than 50 sites, which are all linked to the regime.
Although the likelihood is low, the possibility of an errant missile striking a group of jihadists remains. While US HUMINT assets on the ground in Syria are said to range from none to a few, US drones are known to have operated and likely are still over the country. Additionally, according to a March report in the Los Angeles Times, the CIA has collected “intelligence on Islamic extremists…for possible lethal drone strikes” in Syria.
A strike on jihadists in Syria in the coming days would not be the first such incident for the United States. In fact, in October 2008, US forces carried out a raid that killed al Qaeda operative Abu Ghadiya while he was in Syria. At the time, a senior US official told The Long War Journal that the entire senior leadership cadre of Ghadiya’s network was also killed in the raid.