MOSCOW, April 11 (RIA Novosti) – Moscow is concerned by al Qaida’s growing interest in Syria, fearing that the international terrorist organization is seeking to turn the country into its Mideast base, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of Iraq’s al Qaida affiliate, has announced that Jabhat al-Nusra, a militant group fighting alongside the Syrian rebels, is part of the terrorist organization, the ministry said in a statement on its website.
“Russia strongly and unequivocally condemns terrorism in any of its forms and manifestations,” the statement said.
Moscow is also concerned by the possibility of the Syrian conflict spilling over to neighboring Lebanon, the ministry said.
Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service Director Viktor Ivanov said earlier on Thursday about 20,000 mercenaries fighting in Syria are financed by the proceeds of Afghan drug trafficking, but did not provide any evidence to back his claims.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said earlier this month Syria is turning into a “center of attraction” for international terrorists as the civil war between rebels and government forces continues.
Last year, the Syrian government submitted to the UN Security Council lists of hundreds of foreign nationals killed while fighting against government troops in Syria.
About 70,000 people have died in Syria since the start of the uprising against President Bashar Assad in March 2011, according to UN figures.