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Report: Al Qaida dominates, provides services to large areas of Syria

Special to WorldTribune.com

WASHINGTON — Al Qaida, despite an offensive by the regime of
President Bashar Assad, has been expanding throughout Syria, a report said.

A U.S. think tank asserted that Al Qaida militias were dominating large
areas of Syria and providing services to the majority Sunni community.

A vehicle carrying supplies stands at a checkpoint of the Islamist rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria's Deir al-Zour countryside on July 27, 2013.  /Reuters/Karam Jamal

A vehicle carrying supplies passes a checkpoint of the Islamist rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria’s Deir al-Zour countryside on July 27, 2013. /Reuters/Karam Jamal

The Bipartisan Policy Center cited the Nusra Front for the Defense of the Levant, deemed the most active rebel militia in the war on the Assad regime.

“This is something of a first for an Al Qaida affiliate; developing a Mao-like population centric approach to implementing a successful insurgency,” the report, titled “Jihadist Terrorism: A Threat Assessment,” said.

The report said the Syrian war could revive Al Qaida throughout the Middle East. Nusra, financed by Gulf sheiks, was said to have been providing social services to Sunnis in central and northern Syria.

“It is too soon to predict the long-term threat posed by Al Qaida and allied groups as the movement is undergoing a transition that may end up proving to be its last gasp,” the report, released on Sept. 9, said. “But the right set of circumstances in the unstable Middle East could also revive the network.”

The report warned that any U.S. effort to arm Sunni rebels could help
Nusra and other Al Qaida militias in Syria. One scenario was that these
militias would seize heavy weapons supplied by U.S. allies.

Another scenario was that Nusra would infiltrate pro-Western rebel
militias and establish a presence in the United States. The report said
this could facilitate any Al Qaida attack against an American city.

“The continued attempts and successes by foreign militant groups to
establish support networks in the United States pose a potential future
threat, as individuals sending funds to terrorist groups abroad could
conceivably be directed to conduct attacks domestically, while American
citizens fighting abroad may return to commit terrorism inside the United
States,” the report said.

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