U.S. officials are investigating claims circulated on social media sites that an American fighting with Syria's rebels helped carry out a suicide truck bombing in the war-torn country over the weekend.
Al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida-linked rebel group, announced via Twitter the "martyrdom" of Abu Hurayra al-Amriki (Abu Hurayra the American), releasing what it said was a photo of the bomber as well as a video of the attack.
If true, it would be the first time in Syria's civil war that an American recruit participated in a suicide attack, according to Laith Alkhouri, a senior analyst with Flashpoint Global Partners, which monitors militant websites for government and private clients, who is quoted by Haaretz.
In the video, bearded men can be seen loading artillery shells onto a large truck. Later, what is described as a government-controlled building is suddenly consumed in a massive explosion. A voice on the video is heard yelling "Allahu Akbar!"
The bombing is followed by what appears to be an assault by militants on the complex.
Reuters says that according to Internet postings, Abu Hurayra al-Amriki "carried out one of four suicide bombings on May 25 in Syria's Idlib province on behalf of Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda's affiliate fighting to oust the government of President Bashar al Assad."
Syria Direct, which describes itself as an independent nonprofit journalism service covering the Syrian war, tweets a photo via al-Nusra Front purporting to be the four suicide bombers photographed prior to Sunday's attack, each wearing an explosive vest. One of the four appears to be the same Caucasian man in the photo with the cat.
"Shiraz Maher, a researcher with a University of London think tank, said that last week, an al Qaeda media outlet issued a short promotional video about a forthcoming film related to an 'American' fighter in Syria.
"The teaser, which opens with a graphic of a burning American flag and an exhortation to 'Join the Caravan of Jihad and Martyrdom,' promotes a longer video featuring 'The story of an American Muhajir (visitor) in Sham (Syria).'
"The short video includes a brief sound bite in which a man with an American or Canadian accent, whose face is blurred, declares: 'It is huq (correct) on you to fight.' "