Syrian conflict 'magnet for foreign fighters'

Syrian civil war is now an incubator of extremism, US deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns said.

Syrian civil war is now an incubator of extremism, US deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns said.

ANKARA - The conflict in Syria and the Assad regime have become a magnet for foreign fighters, US deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns warned in a speech before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Thursday.

Describing these fighters as a long-term threat to U.S. national security interests, Burns added; “the hard reality is that the grinding Syrian civil war is now an incubator of extremism – on both sides of the sectarian divide.”

Many sunni extremists fight in opposition groups and “on the other side, Assad has recruited thousands of foreign fighters, mostly Shia, to defend the regime”.

“We face a number of serious risks to our interests as a result: the risk to the homeland from global jihadist groups who seek to gain long-term safe havens; the risk to the stability of our regional partners…and the risk to the Syrian people, whose suffering constitutes the greatest humanitarian crisis of this new century”, Burns said.

Over 100,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in March, 2011, between the Syrian government and opposition groups, the UN said.

“We are working to isolate and degrade terrorist networks in Syria and are pushing hard against Iranian financing and material support to its proxy groups in Syria and elsewhere”, Burns said adding also that “we are increasing cooperation with Turkey, and intensifying our efforts to strengthen the capacity of Syria’s other endangered neighbors”.

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