Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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National and World

April 9, 2013

Iraqi al-Qaida and Syria militants announce merger

(Continued)

All officials spoke anonymously as they were not authorized to give official statements to the media

Eastern Syria and western Iraq have a predominantly Sunni Muslim population like most of the rebels fighting President Bashar Assad, who belongs to the minority Alawite Sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. The Baghdad government is dominated by Shiites, who are majority in Iraq.

The announcement came hours after a suicide car bomber struck Monday in the financial heart of Syria's capital, killing at least 15 people, damaging the nearby central bank.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack but such operations were claimed by Jabhat al-Nusra in the past.

Activists reported violence in different parts of Syria on Tuesday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported air raids on suburbs of the capital Damascus as well as the northern province of Raqqa and Idlib.

Syria's crisis, which began in March 2011 with protests calling for Assad's ouster, then evolved into a civil war. The U.N. says more than 70,000 have been killed in the conflict.

_____

Youssef reported from Cairo. Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra contributed to this report from Baghdad.

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