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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

10% of Syrian Rebels Linked to Al-Qaida Study

RIA Novosti

19:51 16/09/2013 MOSCOW, September 16 (RIA Novosti) – Of the 100,000 rebels battling the Syrian government, one-tenth are part of factions linked to al-Qaida, according to a new study by London-based defense consultancy IHS Jane’s, British newspaper The Telegraph reported Monday.

Another third comprise local hardline Islamists who are focused on the civil war and not a broader jihad, and yet another third belong to groups with a moderate Islamic character, said the study, based on intelligence assessments and interviews with Syrian activists and militants, the newspaper reported.

Only a minority of the rebels are part of secular groups, the report said, adding that the rebels are fractured into about a thousand bands, though many are interconnected and operate under the aegis of larger groups.

Civil strife in Syria began in March 2011 as a peaceful secular protest, and armed resistance to the regime was initially led by secular groups such as the Free Syrian Army, which comprised many defectors from government forces.

But al-Qaida-linked groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant have been pushing for domination over other rebel factions, the newspaper said. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has reportedly clashed with Free Syrian Army groups in recent months.

The Syrian government’s forces numbered about 110,000 as of March this year, though only a core strength of 50,000 was undoubtedly loyal to Assad, British think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies said at the time.

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