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U.S. officials: Al-Qaida behind Syria bombings

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  • U.S. officials: Al-Qaida behind Syria bombings

    U.S. officials: Al-Qaida behind Syria bombings
    By Jonathan S. Landay / McClatchy Newspapers (MCT) | Saturday, February 11, 2012 | Home - | Middle East

    WASHINGTON _ The Iraqi branch of al-Qaida, seeking to exploit the bloody turmoil in Syria to reassert its potency, carried out two recent bombings in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and likely was behind suicide bombings Friday that killed at least 28 people in the largest city, Aleppo, U.S. officials told McClatchy Newspapers.

    The officials cited U.S. intelligence reports on the incidents, which appear to verify Syrian President Bashar Assadís charges of al-Qaida involvement in the 11-month uprising against his rule. The Syrian opposition has claimed that Assadís regime, which has responded with massive force against the uprising, staged the bombings to discredit the pro-democracy movement calling for his ouster.

    The international terrorist networkís presence in Syria also raises the possibility that Islamic extremists will try to hijack the uprising, which would seriously complicate efforts by the United States and its European and Arab partners to force Assadís regime from power. On Friday, President Barack Obama repeated his call for Assad to step down, accusing his forces of "outrageous bloodshed."

    The U.S. intelligence reports indicate that the bombings came on the orders of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian extremist who assumed leadership of al-Qaidaís Pakistan-based central command after the May 2011 death of Osama bin Laden. They suggest that Zawahiri still wields considerable influence over the networkís affiliates despite the losses the Pakistan-based core group has suffered from missile-firing CIA drones and other intensified U.S. counterterrorism operations.

    U.S. officials said that al-Qaida in Iraq, or AQI, began pushing to become involved in Syria as Assadís security forces and gangs of loyalist thugs launched a vicious crackdown on opposition demonstrations, igniting large-scale bloodshed. Growing numbers of lightly armed army deserters and civilians have joined an armed insurrection, and perhaps thousands of people have been killed.

    Zawahiri finally authorized AQI to begin operations in Syria, the officials said, in whatís believed to be the first time that the branch has operated outside of Iraq.

    "This was Zawahiri basically taking the shackles off," said a U.S. official with access to the intelligence reports. Like others interviewed for this story, he spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue involves classified information.

    U.S. officials believe that the Sunni Muslim AQI was looking to expand beyond Iraq, where it has been stepping up attacks on majority Shiites. In Syria, Assad heads a regime dominated by Alawites, a minority Shiite Muslim sect that has ruthlessly ruled the Sunni Muslim-majority country since Assadís father seized power in a 1963 coup.

    "This has less to do with the targets and more to do with the opportunity," the U.S. official said.

    Fears of AQIís widening ambitions are one reason why the United States wants to maintain good relations with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki despite concerns over his increasingly autocratic rule, a second U.S. official said.

    "We desperately need to partner with him (al-Maliki) to go after al-Qaida. We think we can," the official said. "Because these guys are already spreading. They did the two attacks in Damascus."

    The first Damascus attack occurred Dec. 23, when suicide bombers detonated cars packed with explosives outside intelligence agency compounds in the Syrian capital. At least 44 people were killed and more than 160 wounded.

    Then, on Jan. 6, at least 26 people were killed and dozens injured in a bombing against a second intelligence agency compound.

    As regime forces continued pummeling the opposition stronghold of Homs on Friday, two suicide bombers driving explosives-packed vehicles attacked security compounds in Aleppo, killing at least 28 people. It was the first significant violence to strike the commercial center, which has largely remained loyal to Assad.

    The Assad regime blamed all of the attacks on al-Qaida, citing them as proof that it is fighting terrorists and not a pro-democracy movement. In each case, opposition activists accused the regime of staging the bombings to discredit their movement and undermine the support itís receiving from the United States, European powers and the Arab League.

    The U.S. officials said that AQI and Zawahiri apparently see Syriaís turmoil as an opportunity to reassert themselves after the battering the core group has taken with the death of bin Laden and the killing and capture of key operatives in Pakistanís tribal areas.

    They "are seeing space, seeing a vacuum, and opportunity to bounce back and they are taking advantage of it," said the first U.S. official.

    AQI operatives may also think that Syria offers them the possibility of challenging Zawahiri and his group for leadership of the network.

    "We never had to worry about the al Qaida in Iraq people, bad as they were in Iraq, providing real competition to the main al-Qaida force," he said. "But that can happen. Because the main al-Qaida force has been decimated in Pakistan, and these guys may get a new lease on life."

    A third U.S. official said that AQI has been able to operate in Syria because it still maintains in that country networks that it used to infiltrate foreign extremists into western Iraq to fight U.S. forces.

    "This is opportunism, plain and simple," he said.
    Article URL: U.S. officials: Al-Qaida behind Syria bombings -
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

  • #2
    I think the Nazi''s and the Al Q have a lot in common. Both are contemptable beyond all normal levels. The Al Q make the enslavement of women and the murder of innocents a religious accomplishment. The Nazi's made the extermination of other ethnic and the disabled groups a civic duty. What crime are the 72 virgins guilty of? What did they do to deserve being sex slaves to a suicide bomber?
    sigpic"If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees.
    If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children."


    • #3
      Al Qaeda leader backs Syrian revolt against Assad - Yahoo! News

      Al Qaeda leader backs Syrian revolt against Assad
      ReutersBy Martina Fuchs | Reuters – 11 hrs ago
      Related Content

      Al Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahri speaks from an unknown location, in this still image taken from video uploaded on a social media website June 8, 2011. REUTERS/Social Media Website via Reuters TVEnlarge Photo

      Al Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahri speaks from an unknown location, in this still image …

      DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, in a video recording posted on the Internet on Sunday, urged Syrians not to rely on the West or Arab governments in their uprising to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

      In the eight-minute video, entitled "Onwards, Lions of Syria" and posted on an Islamist website, the Egyptian-born Zawahri also urged Muslims in Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan to come to the aid of Syrian rebels confronting Assad's forces.

      "Wounded Syria still bleeds day after day, while the butcher, son of the butcher Bashar bin Hafiz (Hafez al-Assad), is not deterred to stop," Zawahri, wearing his white turban and seated against a green curtain, said.

      "But the resistance of our people in Syria despite all the pain, sacrifice and bloodshed escalates and grows," he added.

      Zawahri took command of al Qaeda after Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces in a raid in Pakistan last May.

      A Muslim should help "his brothers in Syria with all that he can, with his life, money, opinion, as well as information," Zawahri says.

      Syrian forces bombarded districts of the city of Homs on Saturday in a campaign to crush the revolt against Assad, whose ally Russia said it would not support an Arab League peace plan circulating at the United Nations.

      Activists said seven people were killed in the latest attacks in a week-long government siege of Homs, which has been at the heart of the uprising which broke out 11 months ago.

      "Our people in Syria, don't rely on the West or the United States or Arab governments and Turkey," Zawahri said in what is believed to be his second such message to Syrian protesters.

      "You know better what they are planning against you. Our people in Syria, don't depend on the Arab League and its corrupt governments supporting it."

      Arab foreign ministers will discuss a proposal next week to send a joint U.N.-Arab mission to Syria, after a uniquely Arab team failed to end Assad's crackdown on protests.

      "If we want freedom, we must be liberated from this regime. If we want justice, we must retaliate against this regime," Zawahri said.

      "Continue your revolt and anger, don't accept anything else apart from independent, respectful governments."

      In July, Zawahri urged Syrian protesters to direct their movement also against Washington and Israel, denouncing the United States as insincere in showing solidarity with them.

      Earlier this month, another video with Zawahri appeared on Islamist forums, announcing Somali militant group al Shabaab was joining its ranks in an apparent bid to boost morale and sharpen a threat to Western targets.

      (Reporting by Martina Fuchs; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Michael Roddy)
      To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway


      • #4
        Zawahiri is a cheap and bloody opportunist. Fcuk 'em.
        "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
        "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs


        • #5
          S2, et al,

          I agree with you.
          Originally posted by S2 View Post
          Zawahiri is a cheap and bloody opportunist. Fcuk 'em.

          But it is a great opportunity for them; to shift and repair their image. If they are able to score some points with the anti-government apparatus, they might be able to secure a position in the ground floor of the new government.

          Most Respectfully,


          • #6

            anything that ever happens, US officials always blame AQ. Is there really any fucking evidence, or just chatter on websites, thus making it fact? I really have no idea, but everytiem a fucking bomb goes off in the world people seem to blame AQ.


            • #7
              Originally posted by S2 View Post
              Zawahiri is a cheap and bloody opportunist. Fcuk 'em.
              Any evidence? Or just speculation?


              • #8
                Syrian Rebels Likely Behind Aleppo Bombings | STRATFOR

                The twin blasts were the first large-scale attacks in Aleppo, but they follow a number of other increasingly sophisticated attacks since November 2011 targeting the Syrian government's military and security infrastructure throughout the country. Immediately following the bombings, the Syrian regime accused armed "terrorists" of carrying out the attacks and posted graphic footage of the blasts' aftermath on state television. Though the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels denied responsibility (and in fact accused the government of staging the attacks itself as a way to undermine the rebels) the group or one of its offshoots likely did conduct the strike. And its denial was likely motivated by concerns that charges of terrorism may make it more difficult for the group to win support from foreign powers in its struggle against the Syrian government.

                The damage caused by the two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Aleppo was substantial, and in one location, the IED managed to rip through and flatten a steel-reinforced concrete perimeter wall and significantly damage the facade of one of the targeted security headquarters roughly 100 feet away. The amount of explosive material necessary for an explosion of this magnitude would be anywhere between 500-1,000 pounds. This amount of material could not be clandestinely transported without the use of an automobile or truck, which supports the Syrian state media reports that the attack was conducted using a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED).

                Several indications from the attacks demonstrate the party (or parties) responsible was operationally sophisticated and capable of executing the steps of the "attack cycle." These steps consist of selecting the target, operational planning, deployment and attack and media exploitation. A group must be able to conduct extensive surveillance throughout the phases, acquiring the materials, successfully build the devices in a clandestine manner without alerting the authorities, and then have the device function as designed. The fact that they were able to successfully complete each of those steps despite a heavy security presence in Aleppo indicates this attack was carried out by a sophisticated group who possesses a great deal of experience in tradecraft ranging from surveillance to bombmaking.

                The Feb. 10 bombings are not the first of their kind. Attacks on hardened Syrian security targets began Nov. 16, when defectors reportedly fired shoulder-launched rockets at the Syrian Directorate for Air Force Intelligence facility near Damascus. The trend continued Dec. 23 when twin bombings took place in Damascus targeting two branches of Syria's Office of the Security Directorate, followed by a suicide bombing in Damascus on Jan. 6. In attacking Aleppo and Damascus -- two traditional strongholds and economic centers for the government -- the parties responsible are likely trying to convey that the regime's defenses are much weaker than previously thought. Furthermore, attacks directed against intelligence headquarters are specifically intended to demonstrate that even the backbone of the Syrian regime is not safe from attack.

                It is likely that FSA soldiers or individuals associated with the FSA were behind the most recent attacks as well as those recorded since November 2011. There are indications that elements within the FSA are receiving at least some training and military support from foreign backers, which likely has played a role in developing the capabilities associated with carrying out IED attacks on government and security facilities. The FSA's motivation in launching such attacks is not only to inflict damage on government installations and personnel in retaliation for the security forces' attacks on the opposition movement, but also to elicit a harsher crackdown from the Syrian regime. A brutal crackdown would likely attract even greater international attention and cause a humanitarian crisis, which could prompt foreign military intervention -- an FSA goal since its inception.

                The Free Syrian Army has denied responsibility for the attacks, however. Opposition activists and members of the FSA said the facilities were heavily protected and no cars are permitted to park in the area and suggested that the attacks were staged by the regime. Such accusations have been prevalent since the first attack on a security facility in November. The opposition's motivation for denying responsibility and blaming the government is to avoid having their movement tarred as terroristic in nature, a charge the government has leveled against the opposition since the unrest began.

                It is very unlikely the Syrian regime staged this attack on their own facilities, as they do not stand to benefit from such a move besides having another opportunity to call the opposition "terrorists." After the attack, gruesome images of dismembered corpses were immediately posted on the Syrian state media website in efforts to elicit a visceral reaction and convince Syrians and outside observers that the opposition movement should not be supported. Whoever was responsible, any attack on the security facilities harms the Syrian regime by raising serious questions about the strength of Syria's internal security apparatus, which is central to the regime's ability to hold power.
                I half feel sorry for Assad. If his brother doesn't die in a car wreck years ago he's probably living peacefully in the U.S. practicing as a doctor.

                Then again, this country's regime has supported these clandestine operations to f*ck other countries for years, and now they become victim to the same thing.

                Feel like the whole thing is just a proxy conflict between the Arabs and Iranians and the Arabs are seeking to overthrow the Iranians' pet state in a geographically important area. A kind of response to what Iran did in Bahrain.