NEW YORK – A charity now operating out of Washington, D.C., recently received U.S. nonprofit status to raise money for the Free Syrian Army.

There have been scores of reports worldwide of al-Qaida and other jihad groups joining the ranks of the Free Syrian Army in its insurgency against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

The D.C.-based Syrian Support Group boasts on its website it received “a license from the U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control that permits the organization to raise funds and provide certain services to the Free Syrian Army.”

The group says it is raising funds in the U.S. to provide “certain logistical, communications and other services to the [Free Syrian Army].” It defines the Army as “a coalition of affiliated armed rebel groups operating in Syria.”

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Brian Sayers, director of government relations for the Syrian Support Group, admitted in an NPR interview the money raised by his organization will go to weapons purchases as well.

“Yes,” he said when asked about weapons. “Weapons are going to be a part of the process, because if they’re going to set up safe zones for the Syrian citizens … those safe zones have to be defended.”

The Syrian Support Group addresses concerns on its website about whether some of the money it raises will go to al-Qaida organizations fighting with the Free Syrian Army.

“SSG acknowledges reports of increasing Al-Qaeda and other extremist activity within Syria. SSG hopes to serve as a counter-weight to this development and will only provide financial support to military councils who have adopted the Free Syrian Army’s Proclamation of Principles.”

The proclamation outlines the FSA’s commitment to a democratic Syria and also to “fight if necessary to end the tyranny and dictatorship of the Assad regime.”

The Support Group is not the only U.S. entity supporting the rebels.

Two weeks ago, Reuters reported President Obama signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels fighting Assad and his government, quoting U.S. sources familiar with the matter.

WND quoted a Syrian official claiming mujahedeen from Afghanistan, many of whom were spearheading efforts to fight the U.S. there, have been killed in recent clashes with Syrian forces.

There are now widespread reports of al-Qaida fighters among the ranks of the opposition, with some jihadist branches reportedly officially joining the U.S.-supported Free Syrian Army.

WND reported in May there is growing collaboration between the Syrian opposition and al-Qaida as well as evidence the opposition is sending weapons to jihadists in Iraq, according to an Egyptian security official who previously spoke to WND.

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