"Around 90" terror attacks in Syria "can be attributed to organizations that are close to [al-Qaida] or jihadist groups," German daily Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) quoted from German intelligence estimates. The intelligence report confirms an article in Monday's New York Times suggesting strong growth of homegrown and al-Qaida-related groups in Syria's ongoing civil war.
The Times claims that "homegrown Muslim jihadists, as well as small groups of fighters from [al-Qaida], are taking a more prominent role and demanding a say in running the resistance." The trend started with the failure of the largely secular protest movement in March 2011 which has devolved into civil war led by more religious organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood.
As funding pours in from the Arabian Gulf, less radical organizations have even begun to take on an extremist veneer.
According to the Times, "most of the money flowing to the Syrian opposition is coming from religious donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region whose generosity hinges on Salafi teaching." This money has colored many rebel groups, pushing them away from nationalism and towards pan-Islamist ideology. It also has moved the conflict away from a broad-based Syrian resistance of al-Assad, toward a sectarian conflict between the Sunni majority and the Alawite ruling elite.
But that hasn't yet attracted many foreign al-Qaida activists. Unlike Iraq's insurgency, Syrian's rebels are still largely locals. One insurgency organizer told the Times that of the approximately 50,000 fighters, less than 1,000 were foreigners and that they "had trouble gaining local support." The claim suggests that although Syria was the primary gateway for Islamist insurgents entering Iraq, the trend hasn't traveled in the opposite direction.