- - Sunday, December 2, 2012

RAS AL-AYN — A leader of an al Qaeda-inspired militant group fighting the regime in Syria said his men do not fear death and they are determined to form an Islamic state.

Jabhat al-Nusra — Arabic for “the Support Front” — has taken responsibility for suicide bombings and other attacks on regime targets across the country.

The group has raised fears of an expanding Islamic militant element among the forces seeking to topple President Bashar Assad.

“Thanks to our strong faith, we do not fear death because we think that if you are killed by the hands of this regime, then we will be martyrs and we will go to paradise,” said Sheik Abu Ahmed, 41, a regional military commander for Jabhat al-Nusra in the northern Hasaka region.

“We want Shariah [Islamic law] to be applied because it’s the right path for all humanity,” he added. “All these constitutional laws couldn’t realize the people’s happiness.”

Abu Ahmed did not give his real name in an interview with The Associated Press or explain why he was using a nom de guerre.

He and his fighters were reluctant to reveal much personal information or say what they did before the civil war.

CHINA

U.S., China conduct trust-building exercise

CHENGDU — The U.S. and Chinese militaries have wrapped up a modest disaster-relief exercise hailed as a tentative trust-building step amid growing suspicions between the Asia-Pacific region’s largest armed forces.

While not a full-fledged operation, the two-day exercise at People’s Liberation Army barracks outside the city of Chengdu consisted of U.S. and Chinese officers sitting around a table facing a flat-panel video screen and discussing how they would respond to an earthquake in a fictional third country.

Though this was the eighth meeting to discuss disaster relief, it was the first time both sides discussed a joint response to a simulated disaster.

Washington and Beijing have talked about boosting military cooperation for more than a decade.

But distrust runs high and disagreements over Taiwan, North Korea and China’s assertive claims to disputed territories in the East and South China seas remain potential flash points.

China’s military buildup and Washington’s decision to redeploy more weaponry and troops to the Asia-Pacific region have added to the tensions.

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