For the first time publicly, Jordan stated its security officials arrested two jihadists affiliated with al-Qaida on their way to Syria to fight against President Bashar Assad.
Last month, WND first reported there is a growing collaboration between the U.S.-supported Syrian opposition and al-Qaida as well as evidence the opposition is sending weapons to jihadists in Iraq, according to an Egyptian security official. The WND report named several al-Qaida branches aiding the opposition, including the group caught by Jordan.
Also, last week WND reported Syria presented the United Nations and the U.S. with information that indicates it was a group affiliated with al-Qaida, armed by Turkey, that slaughtered more than 100 civilians in their homes in Houla 12 days ago, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.
The international community has widely condemned Syria, pinning the blame for the Houla massacre on forces acting under the direction of Assad’s regime.
The information about al-Qaida among the opposition is significant. Reports have claimed the U.S. is helping to coordinate massive weapons shipments to the opposition. The Obama administration denied the arming claims, stating the U.S. is only sending nonlethal aid to the opposition.
In the latest development, Jordan yesterday confirmed its police arrested two jihadists who attempted to infiltrate the Syrian border to fight alongside the Syrian opposition.
A security official from the Jordanian government told the Associated Press the two arrested Jordanians belong to a small extremist militant organization called the Salafi Movement. Authorities say the group numbers 800 activists, including many who fought alongside the al-Qaida in Iraq group.
A Salafi Movement member confirmed the arrest in a telephone interview with the Associated Press, saying the two confessed to police that they were on their way to Syria to “take part in the Jihad (holy war) against the Syrian regime and its sinful gang.”
Assad’s regime several times has claimed al-Qaida was behind a series of attacks blamed on Syrian forces.
Last month, Syria said it arrested 26 al-Qaida “foreign terrorists,” including one Jordanian.
Last Sunday, Assad used a rare national address to blame “terrorists” and foreign elements for the Houla massacre.
The massacre furthered galvanized world opinion against Assad and has led to stepped-up calls by the opposition for the use of military force to oust the Syrian regime.
The U.S., Italy and Spain announced last week they are expelling Syrian ambassadors after similar moves by France, Germany, Britain, Australia and Canada.
In retaliation, Syria yesterday said it is expelling diplomats from Turkey and 10 Western countries, including the U.S. and the U.K.
Much of the Western news media blamed Assad’s troops for the Houla massacre.
But underscoring the gap of information on the ground, many news media reports at first claimed the civilian deaths in Houla were caused by mortars and shelling by Assad’s forces.
Two days later, much of the news media changed its tune, parroting a U.N. report that says most of the 108 victims of the Houla massacre were shot at close range, some of them women, children and entire families gunned down in their homes.
Survivors and witnesses cited by the U.N. blamed the house-to-house killings on pro-government thugs known as shabiha.
Largely unreported is Syria’s claim that an armed terrorism element is behind the massacre.
Middle East security officials told WND Syria has sent information to the U.S., U.N. and other international bodies indicating the house-to-house slaughter was carried out by a group affiliated with al-Qaida that came from North Africa.
According to Syria, the jihad organization entered Syria via Turkey, where the militants were first armed. Syria did not blame Turkey directly for the massacre, the security officials said. The Syrian report stated Turkey likely believes the al-Qaida elements were going to fight Assad’s regime.
For months now, Turkey has been hosting the Syrian opposition and agitating for international military intervention against Damascus.
Two weeks ago one Egyptian security official told WND there is a growing collaboration between the Syrian opposition and al-Qaida as well as evidence the opposition is sending weapons to jihadists in Iraq.
An Egyptian military attaché detailed the alleged collaboration between al-Qaida and the U.S.-aided opposition in Syria that operates under the banner of the National Free Army.
The purported cooperation extends to recent suicide attacks and bombings in Damascus and in the embattled Syrian city of Homs.
The military official told WND that Egypt has reports of collaboration between the Syrian opposition and three al-Qaida arms:
- Jund al-Sham, which is made up of al-Qaida militants who are Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese;
- Jund al-Islam, which in recent years merged with Ansar al-Islam, an extremist group of Suuni Iraqis operating under the al-Qaida banner;
- Jund Ansar al-Allah, an al-Qaida group based in Gaza linked to Palestinian camps in Lebanon and Syria.
The Arab League, which has condemned Syria, previously privately recognized an armed terrorist element agitating against Assad’s regime.
A leaked Arab League dispatch, posted in February by the Anonymous group, said Arab League monitors on the ground in Syria several times witnessed an “armed entity” provoking Syrian forces and placing civilian lives in danger.
That section of the classified report read: “The Mission determined that there is an armed entity that is not mentioned in the protocol. … In some zones, this armed entity reacted by attacking Syrian security forces and citizens, causing the Government to respond with further violence. In the end, innocent citizens pay the price for those actions with life and limb.”