LOS ANGELES: The US Central Intelligence Agency is collecting information on radicals in Syria for possible lethal drone strikes against them at a later stage, The Los Angeles Times reported late Friday. Citing unnamed current and former US officials, the newspaper said President Barack Obama had not authorized any drone missile strikes in Syria yet, and none were under consideration. However CIA’s Counter-terrorism Center, which runs drone programs targeting militants in Pakistan and Yemen, had recently shifted several targeting officers to improve intelligence gathering on militants in Syria.
The targeting officers have formed a unit with colleagues who were tracking Al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq. Veteran militants from Iraq are believed to have moved to Syria and joined anti-government Islamic militias there, the report said. The targeting officers focusing on Syria are based at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the paper said. But the agency is working closely with Saudi, Jordanian and other regional spy services active in Syria, according to The Times. The preparations come as radical Islamic fighters have won a growing share of rebel victories in Syria, the paper said. The State Department believes that one of the strongest Syrian opposition militias, Al Nusra Front, is a terrorist organization that is indistinguishable from the group Al-Qaeda in Iraq, The Times noted.