Al Qaeda affiliate claims responsibility for Aleppo attacks

Members of the Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN), or the Al-Nusra Front for the Protection of the People of the Levant, announced it has been carrying out attacks in the major Syrian cities of Aleppo, Homs and Damascus, according to The Washington Post

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Fighting alongside Syrian rebel factions looking to topple President Bashar Assad, the group reportedly is 300 fighters strong and operating out Aleppo, the terror cell's commander Abu Ibrahim told the Post on Sunday. 

While mostly Syrian, the JAN members also include foreign fighters from Morocco, Libya, Tunisia and Lebanon, Ibrahim said. Some of his fighters also fought against U.S. forces as part of the Iraqi insurgency. 

The group has emerged as the public face of Islamic radicals in Syria as rebel commanders in Aleppo are threatening to strike an alliance with the growing contingent of al Qaeda fighters streaming into Syria.

Jabhat al-Nusra's announcement is the first time a terror group operating in Syria has claimed responsibility for direct attacks against the Assad government. 

While JAN remains a local threat, mainly to the Assad government and its campaign to quash the growing rebellion in the country, the group's established ties to al Qaeda's central leadership has accelerated concerns over its growing influence in the country. 

The Defense Department continues to argue that al Qaeda militants have not infiltrated the rebels' ranks. However, individual al Qaeda linked jihadi cells fighting in Syria have begun to coordinate and consolidate their operations in the country. 

That type of consolidation among those forces in the country could lead to the growth of an al Qaeda faction in Syria, akin to those headquartered in Yemen, Africa and Iraq, according to U.S. intelligence.