News / Middle East

Expert: Jihadists Joining With Syrian Rebels

Henry Ridgwell
LONDON — As fighting continues in Syria between government and opposition forces, there are growing concerns that Islamist fighters, including some foreigners linked to terror groups like al-Qaida, are joining up with the Free Syria Army.  At least one expert says there's ample online and video evidence that the Syrian uprising is being exploited by Jihadist groups.
 
Free Syria Army fighters on the outskirts of Aleppo earlier this month.  As Western and Gulf powers step up their aid for the Syrian opposition, concerns are growing that Islamist militant groups are infiltrating the conflict.
 
Shiraz Maher of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization, at Kings College, London, specializes in monitoring extremist groups.  He took VOA through some of the videos and websites he'd tracked down online. This one purports to show bombing operations carried out by al Qaida in Syria.
 
"Certainly groups that are Islamist in orientation, whether they're affiliated with al-Qaida or not, are now operating on the ground there. Videos like this, of course are very difficult to independently verify but we can cross reference them with other things that we're seeing. These videos are now surfacing through known al-Qaida web forums that we've been following for the best part of a decade now," he said. 
 
Iconography associated with Islamist militant groups is becoming increasingly common in videos purportedly shot in Syria.
 
"They say it's al-Qaida, it's certainly Islamist fighters within Syria. You can tell that from the flags that they're carrying and also from some of the iconography put onto the video. What they're doing is that they're transporting rugs here and blankets into a rebel-held area. This is typical of the way that Islamist groups in the region operate, in order to win over support from local populations," he said. 
 
In recent weeks, there have been several reports in the Arab press of foreign fighters going to join the Free Syria Army.  Maher says it is impossible to know for sure the numbers of foreigners among the FSA ranks, but they are certainly present.
 
"Saudis for example going, Egyptians, Libyans, Jordanians. And of course that would tend to make sense. These are, particularly in the Gulf states, regimes that have expressed opposition to Bashar al Assad.  Many of the clerics in those countries have declared Bashar al Assad an apostate," he said. 
 
Maher says that extremist groups were slow to react to the Syrian uprising, but in recent months, there are increasing signs that militant Islamist networks are looking to exploit the conflict. 

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: stephan from: France
August 14, 2012 11:00 PM
Oh, are we now going to call them "Jihadists" ?? what happened to Iranian "pilgrims"...??? did you hear about the riots in France?? we call the Islamists there "youths"... - politically correct... we would do anything but look at the Islamic disease in the face... too ugly

by: James from: China
August 14, 2012 10:09 PM
al-Qaida is merely a useful tool to manipulate for western goverments. shouldn't goverment help assad in terms of terrorism?
In Response

by: Anonymous
August 16, 2012 1:25 PM
No Assad is a terrorist, inflicting terror on people of his own kind in fact. Nobody is friends with those who inflict genocide except Russia and China, because they provide the guns.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs