The American general leading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq says U.S. forces have carried out more strikes against a cell of al-Qaida militants known as the Khorasan group.
The Pentagon has said the organization, which is also linked to another al-Qaida-affiliated group, the Nusra Front, was plotting attacks against Europe and the United States.
The U.S. Central Command says initial assessments indicate the strikes in Syria destroyed or severely damaged several Khorasan group vehicles, meeting areas, bomb-making and training facilities.
General Lloyd Austin, the commander in charge of U.S. military operations in the Middle East, said at a forum in Washington Thursday the military was still assessing the effectiveness of the strikes.
Bombmaker's fate unknown
It is not clear whether bombmaker and French national David Drugeon was killed or injured in the strikes, but the general suggested Drugeon may have been a target.
"He is clearly one of the leadership elements and one of the most dangerous elements in that organization, and so any time we can take their leadership out, it's a good thing," Austin said.
Austin said no airstrikes were aimed at the Nusra Front.
His statement contrasts with reports from the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which claims recent attacks hit the Nusra Front in northwestern Syria's Idlib province.
Nusra Front militants recently bested Western-backed moderate rebels in the same area. At the Pentagon, however, spokesman Colonel Steve Warren assured reporters the strikes against five Khorasan group targets were not in response to those recent clashes.
"Those strikes were intended to help the United States of America, because the Khorasan group we believe are actively plotting strikes against U.S. and Western interests," Warren said.
The strikes are the first against the Khorasan group since late September.