May 11, 2012
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta says he has seen intelligence reports indicating an al-Qaeda presence in restive Syria.
“Frankly, we don’t have very good intelligence as to just exactly what their activities are,” he told a joint press conference with Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Pentagon on Thursday.
The group’s presence anywhere is a concern, he said, adding, “we need to continue to do everything we can to determine what kind of influence they are trying to exert there.”
At least 55 people were killed and nearly 400 injured in two powerful explosions that rocked the Syrian capital Damascus on Thursday. Syrian officials blamed “foreign-backed terrorists” of carrying out the twin blasts in quick succession during morning rush hour in the Qazaz neighborhood that houses headquarters of the country’s military intelligence.