As the violence intensifies, there are growing fears that al Qaeda or other extremists could be joining the fray. In a statement posted on a militant website late Sunday, a group calling itself the Al-Nusra Front claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing Saturday in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour that killed nine people.
Little is known about the group, although Western intelligence officials say it could be a front for a branch of al Qaeda militants from Iraq operating in Syria. The group claimed responsibility for several other suicide attacks in Syria.
The U.N. has an observer mission in the country with about 270 unarmed monitors, but it has not stopped the violence.
“A third party, terrorist groups, are trying to gain advantage for themselves,” he said during a press conference in Damascus.
• Kennedy reported from Beirut. AP writers Hussein Malla in Bireh and Bassem Mroue and Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this report.
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