Al-Qaeda Taking Deadly New Role in Syria Conflict

(New York Times) Rod Nordland - Al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are doing their best to hijack the Syrian revolution, with a growing although still limited success that has American intelligence officials publicly concerned. While leaders of the Syrian opposition continue to deny any role for the extremists, al-Qaeda has helped to change the nature of the conflict, injecting suicide bombings into the battle against Assad with growing frequency. Syria has become a magnet for Sunni extremists; the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, which fell into Syrian rebel hands last week, has quickly become a jihadist congregating point. One Qaeda operative, Abu Thuha, 56, told an Iraqi reporter for The New York Times on Tuesday. "We have experience now fighting the Americans, and more experience now with the Syrian revolution....Our big hope is to form a Syrian-Iraqi Islamic state for all Muslims, and then announce our war against Iran and Israel, and free Palestine." Although he is a low-level operative, his grandiose plans have been echoed by the Al Nusra Front for the People of the Levant, which military and intelligence analysts say is the major Qaeda affiliate operating in Syria, with two other Qaeda-linked groups also claiming to be active there, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and Al Baraa ibn Malik Martyrdom Brigade.

2012-07-25 00:00:00

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