Al-Qaeda Behind Syria Blasts: US
THE Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda, seeking to exploit the bloody turmoil in Syria to reassert its potency, carried out two recent bombings in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and was probably behind Friday’s suicide blasts that killed at least 28 people in the largest city, Aleppo, US officials said.
The officials cited US intelligence reports on the incidents, which appear to verify Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s charges of al-Qaeda involvement in the 11-month uprising against his rule. The Syrian opposition has claimed that Dr Assad’s regime, which has responded with massive force against the uprising, staged the bombings to discredit the pro-democracy movement calling for his removal.
The international terrorist network’s presence in Syria also raises the possibility that Islamic extremists will try to hijack the uprising, which would seriously complicate efforts by the US and its European and Arab partners to force Mr Assad’s regime from power. On Friday, President Barack Obama repeated his call for Dr Assad to step down, accusing his forces of ”outrageous bloodshed”. The US intelligence reports indicate that the bombings came on the orders of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian extremist who assumed leadership of al-Qaeda’s Pakistan-based central command after the May 2011 death of Osama bin Laden.
They suggest that Zawahiri still wields considerable influence over the network’s affiliates despite the losses the Pakistan-based core group has suffered from missile-firing CIA drones and other intensified US counterterrorism operations.
”This was Zawahiri basically taking the shackles off,” said a US official with access to the intelligence reports.