Foreign 'jihadi' fighters reported in Syria

Video footage suggests the involvement in Syria conflict of foreign fighters with sympathies or links to al-Qaeda.

    Syria state television has broadcast images of soldiers battling what they called "foreign terrorists".

    Amateur videos have also revealed foreign fighters allegedly hoping to wage a religious war in Syria.

    The country's uprising has been played out constantly on the internet website YouTube, but while the brutal images of death remain the same, images of the armed opposition are changing.

    Some groups say they are affiliated with al-Qaeda, fly its flags, and say they now have training camps inside the country.

    Phil Rees, filmaker and author of 'Dining with Terrorists', told Al Jazeera that for Al Qaeda, Syria is "an attractive place to come now."

    "Who is Al Qaeda? Someone coming from Libya who helped overthrow [Muammar] Gaddafi? During Libya, they were considered to be freedom fighters and the British government supported them. Now they travel to Syria where they feel a jihad going on," he said. "Therefore would you call them Al Qaeda? I don't think so."

    The Syrian opposition says these allegedly al-Qaeda-linked fighters have nothing to do with the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The FSA does, however, acknowledge the presence of such groups in Syria.

    Religious fighters are reported to be coming in from countries such as Iraq and Libya, while money is still pouring into Syria from other countries and international donors to help topple President Bashar al-Assad.

    "Many in the FSA would consider their fight to be jihad, as it is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Muslim Brotherhood there believes Islam is the solution just as Al Qaeda does," said Rees. "I don't think there is a precise division between who is Al Qaeda and who is not."

    "Remember, [the Syrian uprising] is motivated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the organisation which Al Qaeda was spawned from."

    Some observers have accused al-Qaeda in Iraq of moving into Syria in an attempt to stir up a sectarian war.

    "The point is the West thinks there is a major difference between whati t calls a war of national liberation, which it supports, yet when a Muslim is fighting, as in Syria, it would be considered a jihad by the majority of fighters there," said Rees.

    "Exactly whether they believe in the nation state of Syria or whether they believe in a Caliphate or a Muslim Umma', that is not of great concern now."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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