Al-Qaida jihadis replacing rebels in Syria: Russia


LONDON: Russia has warned that jihadi fighters connected to al-Qaida are replacing genuine opposition fighters in Syria, putting the whole world at risk.

After meeting British foreign secretary William Hague on Wednesday, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Kremlin could confirm that the dangerous group fighting in Syria in the name of being rebels was the Jabhat al-Nusra, which had direct links to al-Qaida. "The US has declared it a terrorist organisation," Lavrov said.

He warned that the heavy weaponry France and Britain were planning to provide the rebels to overthrow Syrian president Bashar-al-Assad might fall into the hands of extremists. Some days ago Bouthaini Shabaan, political adviser to Assad, had said Indian-origin jihadi fighters had been found fighting along with the rebels in the Syrian civil war. Earlier, UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi had said fighters of almost 38 nationalities were present in war-torn Syria.

Fears have also been expressed about how more than 100 British Muslims, and a few from the US, have gone to fight in the bloody uprising against Assad. This, experts feel, is creating a new cadre of jihadists in Britain, with Syria now the main destination for militant Muslims.

International observers fear Syria has become the biggest training ground for jihadis — instead of Pakistan — as Islamist sympathizers can experience combat training without any official scrutiny.

The UK has, meanwhile, expressed fears that chemical and biological weapons could be used in the Syrian civil war.


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