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Al-Qaida Surges Into Syria

This Jan. 11, 2013 citizen journalism image shows rebels from al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra waving their brigade flag as they stand on a Syrian air force helicopter, at Taftanaz air base that was captured by the rebels, in Idlib province, northern Syria. (Edlib News Network ENN via AP)
This Jan. 11, 2013 citizen journalism image shows rebels from al-Qaida affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra waving their brigade flag as they stand on a Syrian air force helicopter, at Taftanaz air base that was captured by the rebels, in Idlib province, northern Syria. (Edlib News Network ENN via AP)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has always blamed the conflict in Syria on terrorists, even when it started as a popular uprising.

Now, he might finally be right. An affiliate of al-Qaida in Iraq is surging into Syria. It’s called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

This new group is in competition with the original Syrian al-Qaida affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, but they are seemingly aligned — along with rebel groups — in the effort to oust Assad.

“In the vacuum that’s being created in Syria, where there is something of a stalemate, the al-Qaida affiliates have been able to gain ground and create a presence that at least in the eyes of many Syrians they hope can eventually tip the battle in their favor against the Assad regime and overthrow it,” Bruce Hoffman, director of security studies at Georgetown University, told Here & Now.

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Washington Post “But with its radical ideology and tactics such as kidnappings and beheadings, the group has stamped its identity on the communities in which it is present, including, crucially, ­areas surrounding the main border crossings with Turkey.”

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