DUBAI - The Iraqi wing of al-Qaida announced that a rebel group at the forefront of the rebellion in Syria was its branch in that country and that both groups would operate under one name, according to the US-based SITE Intelligence Group.
The leader of the Islamic State in Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said his group and Syria's al-Nusra Front - which has been blacklisted by the United States - would now jointly go under the name of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, the SITE Intelligence Group reported.
The predominant Islamist element in the Syrian uprising has created concern for regional and Western powers and deepened the Shi'ite-Sunni divide in the Middle East.
The authenticity of the statement could not immediately be verified. If confirmed it is likely to further deepen the political dilemma facing those countries who oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad but fear the rise of al-Qaida and Islamist militancy in Syria.