Cleric on trial in Jordan backs Syria militants

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Associated Press

Posted on February 13, 2014 at 7:30 AM

Updated Thursday, Feb 13 at 7:30 AM

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — A radical Sunni preacher deported from Britain who is on trial on terrorism charges in his native Jordan says foreign fighters should remain in Syria to battle growing Shiite influence there.

The 52-year-old Abu Qatada told reporters during a break in his trial on Thursday that he "supports" suicide attacks in Lebanon against Shiite targets. Abu Qatada has been described as a senior al-Qaida figure in Europe who had close ties to the late Osama bin Laden.

Fighters from Lebanon's militant group Hezbollah are fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops in the civil war in Syria. Assad belongs to the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, while most Syrian rebels are Sunnis.

Qatada says the attacks will continue until Hezbollah "pulls out its devilish fighters from Syria."

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