The US is collecting intelligence on Islamic extremists in the rebel forces fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad, for possible targeted drone strikes, the Los Angeles Times quoted US officials as saying on Friday.

The US officials believe al-Qaida operatives and fighters in Iraq moved to Syria to join the rebels.

The intelligence assembled will provide the White House with both lethal and non-lethal options if it concludes the Syrian conflict is creating a haven for terrorists, according to the Times. It could also be used to help moderate opposition figures prevail over extremists.

The officials clarified, however, that US President Barack Obama has not authorized drone missile strikes in Syria and that none is currently under consideration.

The CIA’s counterterrorism center recently shifted several targeting officers from collecting intelligence for drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen to Syria, to improve intelligence collection on Islamists who could pose a terrorist threat. The targeting officers have not, however, been deployed to the war zone, and will conduct their intelligence work from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

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The CIA and the White House refused to comment on the targeting effort, the Times said.

US involvement in the conflict has amounted to giving humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, as well as non-lethal assistance to the opposition that includes medical supplies, food for rebel fighters and $60 million to help provide basic services such as security, education and sanitation.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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