U.S. mulls drone strikes on Syrian extremist fighters - reports
Syrian men dance and chant revolutionary slogans during the commemoration of the second anniversary of the Syrian conflict, in Bustan al-Qasr district of Aleppo. (AFP PHOTO/JM LOPEZ)
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Information on Islamic radicals in Syria for a possible lethal U.S. drone strikes against them, is being collected by the CIA, The Los Angeles Times reported late Friday.
The newspaper, citing unnamed current and former U.S. officials, said President Barack Obama had not authorized any drone missile strikes in Syria yet, and none were under consideration.
“The Counterterrorism Center, which runs the CIA’s covert drone killing program in Pakistan and Yemen, recently shifted several targeting officers to improve intelligence collection on militants in Syria who could pose a terrorist threat,” the report stated, citing the officials.
The targeting officers have formed a unit with colleagues who were tracking al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq.
Veteran militants from Iraq are believed to have moved to Syria and joined anti-government Islamic militias there, the report said.
The targeting officers focusing on Syria are based at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the paper said.
The preparations come as radical Islamic fighters have won a growing share of rebel victories in Syria, the paper said.
The State Department believes that one of the strongest Syrian opposition militias, Al Nusra Front, is a terrorist organization that is indistinguishable from the group Al-Qaeda in Iraq, The Times noted.
The United States has already said it would provide medical supplies and food directly to opposition fighters, but has ruled out sending arms for fear they may find their way to Islamist hardliners who might then use them against Western targets.
Backing the Syrian opposition is increasingly seen as the only leverage foreign powers have in trying to support the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Who poses the greater risk to Syria? Extremists fighting on the side of the rebels or the Syrian regime? Tell us what you think below.