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Syrian uprising shifts toward suicide bombings. Al Qaeda's handiwork? (+video)

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Still, the Syrian opposition has cast doubts on the jihadist provenance of past suicide bombings, claiming they were actually carried out by the regime to justify its claims that it is confronting "Al-Qaeda terrorists" and "armed terrorist gangs" rather than an ostensibly peaceful opposition.

"The only Al Qaeda cells that operate in Syria are those manipulated by Assad's security apparatuses," said Ammar Abdulhamid, a US-based Syrian opposition activist in an online newsletter emailed today. "The suicide bombings are directly staged or facilitated by them. Issues pertaining to the timing and the real beneficiaries, and everything we know about the Assads' involvement in terror networks, all point in this direction."

Mr. Abdulhamid's post carried a YouTube link that quotes Walid Muallem, Syria's foreign minister, telling a news conference in Damascus in December that suicide bombings would not be an "embarrassment" for the government but would bestow "credibility" upon its claim that it is under threat from Islamist militants.

Some analysts have long maintained that the Syrian authorities have cooperated with jihadist networks on a short-term tactical basis, even though the nominally secular nature of Syria's Baathist regime and its Alawite identity makes it an unlikely bedfellow with Sunni jihadists. Such jihadists view the Alawite faith, an obscure offshoot of Shiite Islam, as apostate.

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