13 Syrian rebel groups slam opposition coalition

Associated Press
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian citizens gather at the scene of a car bomb exploded in the residential al-Tadhamon neighborhood in Damascus, Syria, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013. Syrian state media say a car bomb has exploded in Damascus, killing and wounding a dozen people. Damascus has been hit by a wave of explosions over the past leaving scores of people dead. (AP Photo/SANA)
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BEIRUT (AP) — Several Syrian rebel groups, including a powerful al-Qaida-linked faction, say they reject the authority of the Western-backed opposition coalition in exile.

In a joint statement released on Wednesday, 13 rebel groups led by the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front slammed the Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, saying it no longer represents their interests.

The statement also called on all those fighting to topple President Bashar Assad's regime to unite under a "clear Islamic framework" — an apparent reference to the al-Qaida faction's aspirations to create an Islamic state in Syria.

The statement came as U.N. inspectors returned to the country to continue their probe into chemical weapons attacks.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Lebanese airport officials say a team of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors has arrived in Beirut on its way back to Syria.

U.N officials say the inspectors will complete their investigation into "pending credible allegations" of chemical weapons use in Syria's civil war.

Lebanese officials say the six-member team, led by Swedish expert Ake Sellstrom, will travel by road to Syria later Wednesday.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.

A report following the inspectors' previous trip said nerve agent sarin was used in an August attack near Damascus.

The U.S. and its allies say President Bashar Assad's regime was behind the attack. Washington says the attack killed 1,400 people. Activist groups gave significantly lower death tolls, but still in the hundreds.

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