1 of 2
Charles Dharapak, Associated Press
In this Oct. 29, 2010 file photo, President Barack Obama makes a statement to reporters about the suspicious packages found on U.S. bound planes in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. While the Islamic State group is getting the most attention these days, another band of extremists in Syria, a mix of hardened Jihadists from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe, poses a more direct and imminent threat to the U.S. homeland, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation, American officials say.

WASHINGTON — The Islamic State group is grabbing the attention now.

But American officials say another band of extremists in Syria — a mix of militants from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe — poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, and they're working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation.

At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group. These are veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there.

U.S. officials say these militants didn't go to Syria mainly to fight against President Bashar Assad.

Instead, they were sent by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.