Monday, July 8, 2013

Syrian Conflict Putting Al Qaeda Militants Closer to Europe: UK


Syrian Conflict Putting Al Qaeda Militants Closer to Europe: UK



LONDON - The conflict in Syria has brought al Qaeda fighters closer to

Europe and in greater numbers than ever before, profoundly changing the

nature of the terrorism threat, Britain's top security official said on



Hundreds and possibly thousands of al Qaeda-linked people had been drawn to

the two-year-old uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said

Charles Farr, Director General of Britain's Office for Security and



"Syria is a very profound game-changer," Farr told a security conference in

London. "The blunt truth is there are more people associated with AQ (al

Qaeda) and AQ-associated organizations now operating in Syria than there

ever have been before that close to Europe.


"They are operating at an intensity which is unparalleled since the events

in Iraq in 2005/2006, in other words the peak of the Iraqi terrorist threat.

They are much closer to us, in much greater numbers, and fighting with an

intensity we have not seen before."


He later told Reuters hundreds and maybe thousands of people were involved,

but cautioned that not everyone going to Syria was an extremist, with some

seeking to join Western-backed rebels and others linking up with the al

Qaeda-linked Nusra Front because it was one of the most effective fighting



"Groups in Syria aspire to attack Europe and clearly in this chaotic

environment have both the capability and the means to do so using, amongst

others, returning foreign fighters who are coming back to Europe," he told

the conference.


He also said the increasingly sectarian nature of the Syrian civil war meant

both prominent Sunni and Shi'ite figures were saying that fighting was a

religious obligation.


"One of the effects of that is that it draws even more people into the

conflict," Farr said.


"You might not want to go to Syria to fight against the regime but you

certainly want to go to Syria if the fight is characterized as a fight

between Sunni and Shia."


He said the Syrian conflict had also drawn in Lebanon's Shi'ite guerrilla

group Hezbollah. Sponsored by Iran and fighting for Assad, Hezbollah was

"operating with an openness and an intensity we have not seen before," Farr



(Editing by Janet Lawrence)



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