Panetta: Intel indicates ‘al-Qaeda presence in Syria’

Source: AP/YNET

Twin suicide car bombs that exploded outside a military intelligence building in Damascus and killed 55 people, tossing mangled bodies in the street, were the deadliest attack against a regime target since the Syrian uprising began 14 months ago.Thursday’s bombings fueled fears of a rising Islamic terrorist element among the forces seeking to oust President Bashar Assad and dealt a further blow to international efforts to end the bloodshed. […]

The Obama administration condemned the attack and expressed concern that al-Qaeda may be increasingly taking advantage of the country’s prolonged instability.Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters that US intelligence indicates “an al-Qaeda presence in Syria,” but said the extent of its activity was unclear.“Frankly we need to continue to do everything we can to determine what kind of influence they’re trying to exert there,” Panetta said. He also lamented that a month of efforts to implement a UN ceasefire plan haven’t worked.[…]

The bombings appeared to be beyond the capabilities of the known rebel groups, mostly made up of army defectors with light arms. One organizer denied that the rebels have the means or the will to plot such attacks.”If we had the power to do this, we would have changed the equation a long time ago,” said the organizer, who identified himself only as Abu Mustafa, speaking by phone from northern Syria. “We built bombs with fertilizer and now we have a hard time even getting fertilizer.”

Image: AFP


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