Mediterranean Review - 22 May 2012

Report
from NATO Civil-Military Fusion Centre
Published on 22 May 2012

This document provides an overview of developments in the Mediterranean Basin and other regions of interest from 15 May — 21 May, with hyperlinks to source material highlighted and underlined in the text. For more information on the topics below or other issues pertaining to the region, please contact the members of the Med Basin Team, or visit our website at www.cimicweb.org.

In Focus: Al Qaeda in Syria-A Shift in the Conflict?

By Linda Lavender

In February 2012, al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahri called on Muslims to join the fight against Syrian President Bashar Assad, with the aspirations of establishing an Islamic state in Syria, ac-cording to the Associated Press (AP). A Christian Science Monitor (CSM) article suggests that an exodus of al Qaeda-affiliated fighters from Iraq have recently joined the rebellion in Syria, fighting against the Assad regime. Further, a recent Reuters article reports that 26 Arab fighters captured in Syria “confessed to al Qaeda sympathies”. Nineteen of the 26 captives were from Tu-nisia and indicated they left Tunisia to fight against the Assad regime, upset by the televised imag-es of suffering Sunni Muslims. Meanwhile, the Daily Star reports that Lebanese and Palestinian security forces are working to confirm information that al Qaeda’s top operative in Lebanon, Taw-fiq Taha, along with four members of Fatah al Islam, an extremist Sunni group, have left the Ain al-Hiweh refugee camp and are headed for Syria. US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta says in-telligence strongly suggests that al Qaeda has arrived in Syria but it is unclear what activities they are undertaking, according to the Guardian.

In testimony given before the US Congress, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warns that al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has extended its reach into Syria, according to a 22 February 2012 US Public Broadcasting System (PBS) “Frontline” programme. Clapper further suggests that AQI was behind the high-profile suicide bomb attacks on state facilities in Damascus on 23 December 2011 and in Aleppo on 10 February 2012. The most recent Damascus suicide bombing on 10 May was a twin attack that left 55 dead and hundreds wounded and was initially credited to a little-known militant group called al Nusra Front, according to The National. (continued on page 10)