US spy chief suspects Al-Qaeda behind Syrian suicide bombings

   Feb 17, 4:11 pm

Washington, Feb 17(ANI): A US spy chief suspects that Al-Qaeda's offshoot in Iraq carried out the recent suicide bombings in Syria and is infiltrating the Syrian opposition challenging President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

National Intelligence Director James Clapper said bomb attacks in Damascus and Aleppo since December "had all the earmarks of an al-Qaeda-like attack."

"And so we believe al-Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria," The Telegraph quoted him, as saying.

His comments confirmed earlier reports that US officials considered Al-Qaeda as a suspect for the bombings and follows a recent video message from al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri backing protests against Assad's rule.

Clapper also expressed concern that Al-Qaeda operatives had inserted themselves into the divided opposition in Syria in the wake of the violence that is believed to have left over 6,000 people dead since March 2011.

"Another disturbing phenomenon that we've seen recently, apparently, is the presence of extremists who have infiltrated the opposition groups. The opposition groups in many cases may not be aware that they're there," he added.

Clapper said the opposition was deeply fragmented and that the Assad regime appeared to be able to hold on to power for the moment as it resorted to violent repression of protests.

He added there was no sign that the stalemate would end soon.

Clapper also said US intelligence agencies were monitoring Syria's "extensive network" of chemical weapon stockpiles, which he said presented a bigger challenge than Libya's arsenal did before the toppling of former ruler Muammar Gaddafi's regime.(ANI)

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