Russia alarmed by al Qaeda's interest in Syria



Moscow: Russia is concerned by al Qaeda's growing interest in Syria, as it fears the international terrorist organisation is seeking to turn the country into its Mideast base, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of Iraq's al Qaeda affiliate, has announced that Jabhat al-Nusra, a militant group fighting alongside the Syrian rebels, is part of the terrorist organisation, the ministry said in a statement on its website on Thursday.

"Russia strongly and unequivocally condemns terrorism in any of its forms and manifestations," the statement said.

Moscow is also concerned by the possibility of the Syrian conflict spilling over to neighbouring Lebanon, the ministry said.

Russia's Federal Drug Control Service Director Viktor Ivanov said earlier Thursday about 20,000 mercenaries fighting in Syria are financed by the proceeds of Afghan drug trafficking, but did not provide any evidence to back his claims.

About 70,000 people have died in Syria since the start of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, according to UN figures.

IANS