ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR, Pakistan - The Pakistani Taliban have set up camps and sent hundreds of men to Syria to fight alongside rebels opposed to President Bashar Assad, militants said on Sunday, in a strategy aimed at cementing ties with al-Qaida's central leadership.

More than two years since the start of the anti-Assad rebellion, Syria has become a magnet for foreign Sunni fighters who have flocked to the Middle Eastern nation to join what they see as a holy war against Shi'ite oppressors.

Operating alongside militant groups such as the al Nusra Front, described by the United States as a branch of al-Qaida, they mainly come from nearby countries such as Libya and Tunisia riven by similar conflict as a result of the Arab Spring.

On Sunday, Taliban commanders in Pakistan said they had also decided to join the cause, saying hundreds of fighters had gone to Syria to fight alongside their "Mujahedeen friends".

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