A rebel fighter scans the area with the scope of his rifle as he holds a position in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on February 11, 2014. (AFP PHOTO / ALEPPO MEDIA CENTRE / FADI AL-HALABI)
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After serving for years as the main conduit for weapons and cash to rebels battling Syria's Bashar al-Assad, Saudi Arabia is shifting its policy to contain the spread of Islamist militancy at home, diplomats and figures close to the goverment say."What happened in Syria is really causing problems for us," said Abdulrahman al-Hadlaq, head of the Interior Ministry's Ideological Security Directorate, which monitors online radicalism.He estimated there were between 1,000-2,000 Saudis in Syria, including both fighters and people distributing charity to refugees, and said he believed most were in groups aligned with al Qaeda.Diplomats say the Saudis believe Qatar -- the other rich Gulf monarchy backing the rebels -- has been willing to back more radical Islamist groups in Syria than the Saudis have been comfortable with, to Riyadh's chagrin.However, while the diplomatic and Saudi sources agree that the adjusted focus on Syria policy is due to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed pushing his concerns on radicalisation, it appears unlikely he will take a wider role in the war effort.
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