Al Qaeda-linked group claims deadly Syria blast



Beirut: An al Qaeda-linked group fighting alongside Syrian rebels claimed responsibility today for a suicide car bombing that reportedly killed dozens of President Bashar Assad's loyalists last week.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius pleaded for countries to honor their pledges of funding and other aid to the Syrian opposition to keep the country out of the hands of Islamist militant groups.

"If we don't give the means to the Syrian people to go achieve their freedom, there is a risk, and we all know it exists, that massacres and antagonisms amplify, and that extremism and terrorism prevail.

"Chaos is not tomorrow, it is today, and we need to end it. We need to end it in a peaceful way and that means increased and concrete support to the Syrian National Coalition."

Islamic militants have been the most organised fighters battling government troops in the 22-month-old conflict in which more than 60,000 people have been killed. Their growing prominence has fueled fears that Muslim radicals might try to hijack the revolt, and has contributed to the West's hesitance to equip the opposition with sophisticated weapons.

Jabhat al-Nusra, which the US says has ties to al Qaeda and has declared a terrorist organisation, said in a statement posted online that one of its suicide bombers detonated a car bomb last Monday at the headquarters of a pro-government militia in the central province of Hama.

It said the bomber drove a truck packed with explosives to the militia's complex in the town of Salamiya and blew himself up "to give the tyrannical regime a taste" of violence it has been inflicting on the Syrian people.

Activists said at least 42 people, mostly pro-Assad militiamen, were killed in the blast. The government did not say how many people were killed, although state-run SANA news agency published photographs of what it said was a funeral procession for the blast's victims on Wednesday. In one of the photographs, a dozen men are seen standing behind 11 caskets, wrapped into a Syrian flag

PTI