Top U.S. intelligence officials are pointing to al-Qaida in Iraq as the likely culprit behind recent bombings in Syria.

The attacks against security and intelligence targets in Damascus in December, and two more recent bombings in the nation's largest city, Aleppo, have been the deadliest attacks against the Syrian government in the 11-month uprising.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress today the bombings bear "all the earmarks" al-Qaida attacks.

Though the U.S. has called for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, Clapper says his fall could lead to a power vacuum that al-Qaida's largest regional affiliate or other extremist groups could fill. He says that could enable such groups' access to Syria's vast chemical weapons stockpiles.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the indications that al-Qaida has infiltrated the government's opposition makes the Syrian crisis "that much more serious" and worrisome to the United States.


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