Jihadist forums say fighters going to Syria

BAGHDAD - Jihadist forums say that Muslim volunteers are travelling to Syria from a string of Arab countries to fight against President Bashar al-Assad's secular regime, which is battling an 11-month uprising.

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has voiced support for the Syrian uprising, while Iraq's deputy interior ministry told AFP on Saturday that jihadists and weapons were moving from Iraq to Syria.

More than 6,000 people have been killed since protests against Assad's rule began in March 2011, according to activists. While there are still civilian demonstrations, the focus has shifted to armed rebellion against the regime.

One jihadist site, Ansar al-Mujahedeen, has a page called: "Lions of Al-Sham - the news of jihad in glorious Syria," which purports to publish news "as it arrives from the lions in Syria."

The reports it carries cannot be independently verified.

One of the members of the forum, using the name Nasr al-Din al-Hosni, on Thursday announced "the death of Emir Abu Osama al-Muhajar on the Iraqi-Syrian border, after he managed to smuggle ammunition" from Iraq to Syria.

The page also said that a fighter named Abu Hamza al-Shami was killed "in a military operation in Zabadani (near Damascus) on Wednesday".

"We ask God to accept him in his heaven, and that we follow him," it said.

The page also referred to the death of Abu al-Buraa al-Sulti in Aleppo, saying he was the first fighter who came from Jordan to fight in Syria.

"The first (jihadist) who died was Abdullah Dulaimi," known by the nickname Abu Tabarik, in the area of Abu Kamal, a city in Syria near the Iraqi border, the page said. The Dulaim are a major Sunni tribe in western Iraq.

The page also referred to "the arrival of Abu Hudhaifa al-Kuwaiti in Al-Sham, where the ground was blessed with his soul, from his country (Kuwait)."

Many members of the forum commented on the posts with prayers for those who were killed, and for those who are going to Syria to fight.

"We need the support of the mujahedeen in every way so that we do not lose Al-Sham (Syria)," wrote one, using the name Muslim Suri Halabi Hurr.

The posts about the presence of jihadists in Syria come after calls were published on jihadist sites to send fighters and weapons to "support the Sunnis and fight against the Nusayris," a perjorative reference to Syria's Alawite minority, from which Assad hails.

In an article published Thursday on the Ansar al-Mujahedeen forum entitled: "We will not let you down," Nasir al-Din al-Hosni wrote: "The men of the state (the Islamic State of Iraq - an Al-Qaeda front organisation) are increasing and the emirs of the state are roaring.

"The state is starting to send its most beloved men and their pure blood is watering the land of Syria," he wrote. "Soon, you will hear what will make your heart smile.

"Please do not forget your martyr brothers who died in the past days in Syria."

On the Honein jihadist forum, Khaled bin al-Waleed on Wednesday commented on an article headlined: "What if the revolution in Syria fails?" saying: "The lions of Islam in Syria are fighting an already dead regime."

Abdullah al-Qaysi also commented on the page, saying: "This Nusayri coward (Assad), if he was a true man, would go to the scene of the fighting, but in any case, the lions of Islam are now close to his dirty neck."

Abu Abdullah al-Makhzumi said on the same page that "the fight has come and the doors of heaven are open. Let's go to jihad, let's go to jihad."

Haidar al-Ansari said: "My wish is to go there (Syria), but how? Is the road clear?"

Al-Sadaa bil-Haq replied: "Yes, my brother, the road is clear and there are men who already went there, and they are now fighting against" Assad.

The Honein forum gave Islamic names to six groups that are said to be fighting the Syrian army in and around Homs and Zabadani, and in recent weeks began publishing their statements.

Iraqi Deputy Interior Minister Adnan al-Assadi told AFP on Saturday that "we have intelligence information that a number of Iraqi jihadists went to Syria," and that "weapons smuggling is still ongoing."

Al-Qaeda chief Zawahiri expressed support for the uprising.

"I appeal to every Muslim and every free, honourable one in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, to rise to help his brothers in Syria with all that he can," Zawahiri was quoted as saying by US monitors, the SITE Intelligence Group.

He described Assad's government as a "pernicious, cancerous regime that suffocates the free people in Syria."