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State media: Hundreds of jihadi fighters in Syria

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March 17, 2013 06:34 AM EST | AP


DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian state media says hundreds of foreign "jihadist" fighters have infiltrated the country in the past two years to join with rebels trying to topple President Bashar Assad.

The pro-government al-Watan newspaper alleged on Sunday that the radical foreign fighters were trained in the United States, Britain and France, which are backing the opposition.

The paper says the hundreds of jihadist fighters are responsible for the decline of the Syrian economy and the destruction of the nation's cultural heritage.

The revolt against Assad's authoritarian rule, which began in March 2011, turned into civil war that has claimed more than 70,000 lives. Assad's regime portrays the uprising as a foreign-backed conspiracy to destroy Syria and refers to rebels as terrorists.