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Prison Breakouts Could Bolster al-Qaida's Hand in Syria

An undated image purported to show militants on the Iraqi side of the Syria-Iraq border. Extremists freed from two Iraqi prisons in a major jailbreak this week could help to solidify al-Qaida's clout in neighboring Syria, according to a news report (AP Photo). An undated image purported to show militants on the Iraqi side of the Syria-Iraq border. Extremists freed from two Iraqi prisons in a major jailbreak this week could help to solidify al-Qaida's clout in neighboring Syria, according to a news report (AP Photo).

A massive, staged jailbreak that freed hundreds of prisoners in Iraq earlier this week could prove to be a boon for al-Qaida's influence in Syria, the Atlantic reported on Wednesday.

The terror organization's Iraqi affiliate employed suicide strikes and explosive projectiles in coordinated assaults on the country's Abu Ghraib and Taji prisons, the New York Times said on Tuesday. The Iraqi Interior Ministry blamed colluding security personnel in part for the breakout, the London Telegraph reported the same day.

Interpol on Wednesday called the incidents "a major threat to global security."

"Many of the escaped prisoners were senior-level al-Qaida members, some of whom had been sentenced to death," the organization said in a statement.

Regional al-Qaida fighters are supporting Sunni opponents of the Syrian government, which is widely believed to possess chemical weapons used in the country's civil war. The United States is debating military measures aimed at preventing extremists from seizing such arms from President Bashar Assad's regime.

Al-Qaida activities in Syria mirror the growing influence of its local offshoots in other unstable parts of the world, according to the Atlantic.

Al-Qaida's diminishing presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan means that operatives "had to go somewhere else," said Shamila Chaudhary, a senior South Asia fellow with the New America Foundation. "That internationalizes conflicts because al-Qaida threatens the U.K., U.S. and other countries."

In Syria, two al-Qaida affiliates hosted an ice cream party in an apparent bid to shore up their reputation in rebel-held portions of the country, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

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Country Profile

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Syria

This article provides an overview of Syria's historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

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