Iran's Revolutionary Guard is offering support to al-Qaida and is increasing its links to the terrorist group, AFP quoted a US congressional panel as saying in a report released on Wednesday.

The report was released by the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus in the aftermath of the US raid in Pakistan that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden on Sunday.

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"Iran has quietly forged a strong working relationship with core al-Qaida leaders," said the report's author Michael S. Smith II of the strategic advisory firm Kronos. "This relationship has been established to counter American influence in the Middle East and South Asia," he added.

"Through it, Iran will likely also help al-Qaida mobilize terrorists to carry out attacks against the US and our allies, providing the support required to extend al-Qaida's operational reach," the report stated.

The report contends that despite the popular misconception that Shi'ite Iran would not work with Sunni al-Qaida, the ties between the two entities date back to the 1990s when members of Iran's elite Al-Quds force worked with Hezbollah to train and equip bin Laden's holy warriors.

"Since 9/11, these partnerships have become all the more pronounced. Hundreds of al-Qaida members, along with family members of core al-Qaida leaders like Osama bin Laden, have found refuge inside Iran," Smith wrote in the report.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard was targeted for US sanctions last week, accused of helping Syria's violent crackdown against protests against the regime of President Bashar Assad.

"If left unchecked, Iran's relationship with al-Qaida could cost America and our allies dearly," the report warns.

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