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Top US official: Al Qaeda in Iraq joining fight against Syria's Assad

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper's comments marked the first time a top official publicly confirmed the involvement of AQI in Syria's uprising.

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Syrian rebels aim during a weapons training exercise outside Idlib, Syria, Tuesday. Al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate appears to have joined the fight against Syria's Assad.

AP

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Al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate appears to have infiltrated Syrian opposition groups and was likely responsible for recent suicide bombings in Damascus and the industrial capital of Aleppo, senior US intelligence officials told Congress Thursday.

"We believe that Al Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria," Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

It was the first time that a top US official publicly confirmed the involvement of Al Qaeda in Iraq, or AQI, in the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which began nearly a year ago as peaceful protests for an end to his family's four-decade-long rule.

Mr. Clapper's comments came one week after a McClatchy report quoted unnamed US officials as saying that AQI was responsible for suicide bombings in Damascus in December and January, and was believed to be behind two strikes last week in Aleppo. The four attacks targeted intelligence and security compounds and killed at least 70 people.

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