Syria to cooperate with Iran 'against terrorism' says Assad

Jihadi militia clashes leave 3,300 dead since beginning of 2014

26 February, 19:14

    (ANSAmed) - BEIRUT, FEBRUARY 26 - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad reiterated the need to maintain close ''cooperation'' with Iran in order to ''fight extremism and terrorism'' in the region, official news agency SANA reported Wednesday.

    Assad made the statement in a Damascus meeting with the Iranian Parliament's Foreign Policy and National Security Committee Chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi, SANA said.

    The Syrian regime qualifies all armed rebels in the country as ''terrorists''. Assad said Syria must coordinate with Iran to ''unify our positions against the Wahhabi school of thought, which poses the biggest threat to the peoples of our countries and the world'', SANA reported.

    The Wahhabi doctrine, a conservative branch of Sunni Islam, is espoused by the Saudi Arabian monarchy, which is Shiite-led Iran's biggest rival in the Middle East.

    Saudi Arabia sides with Syrian rebels against Assad, who belongs to the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

    At least 3,300 people have been killed since the beginning of the year in ongoing clashes in northern Syria between the different jihadi militias that have joined the fray against Assad, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

    The clashes are mainly between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaeda affiliate operative in neighboring Iraq, and other Islamic formations such as the al-Nusra Front, which al-Qaeda has recognized as its Syria branch. Of those killed as a result of combat, car bombs and summary executions, 281 were civilians, 924 were ISIL combatants and 1,395 were fighters from other rebel groups, including non-extremist ones, according to SOHR.

    It is impossible to ascertain which group the remaining 700 dead belonged to, because the different formations try to hide the real number of their casualties.

    Loyalist forces killed over 100 mostly Syrian rebels in an ambush Wednesday near the city of Utayba in the East Ghouta region south-east of Damascus, sources on the ground told ANSAmed via Skype.

    The sources denied SANA reports that most of those killed in the ambush were foreign militias. At least 60 of the rebels, which initially numbered 200, managed to flee, while 140 are unaccounted for. Initial reports are that 132 were killed. The different versions of the incident cannot be independently verified. (ANSAmed).

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