Thursday, September 20, 2012

Extremists Showing Up on Front Lines in Syria

    Thursday, September 20, 2012   No comments


(TEL RIFAAT, Syria) — The bearded gunmen who surrounded the car full of foreign journalists in a northern Syrian village were clearly not Syrians. A heavyset man in a brown gown stepped forward, announced he was Iraqi and fingered through the American passport he had confiscated.

“We know all American journalists are spies. Now tell us what you are doing here and who you are spying for,” he said in English before going on to accuse the U.S. of the destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I really want to cut your head off right now,” he added, telling his men, many of whom appeared to have North African accents, that this American kills Muslims.

With the intervention of nearby villagers, the confrontation eventually was defused. But it underscored the unpredictable element that foreign fighters bring to the Syrian conflict.

Most of those fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad are ordinary Syrians and soldiers who have defected, having become fed up with the authoritarian government, analysts say. But increasingly, foreign fighters and those adhering to an extremist Islamist ideology are turning up on the front lines. The rebels are trying to play down their influence for fear of alienating Western support, but as the 18-month-old fight grinds on, the influence of these extremists is set to grow.



Ed Isr

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