Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with AFP at the presidential palace in Damascus on Jan. 20, 2014. / Joseph Eid, AFP/Getty Images
The State Department confirmed Friday during a press briefing in Washington that a U.S. citizen from Florida was behind a May 25 suicide bombing in Syria that targeted Syrian government troops.
"I can confirm that this individual was a U.S. citizen involved in a suicide bombing in Syria," spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, confirming that the bomber's name was Abu Hurayra al-Amriki.
Translated, the name means "the American," Psaki said.
In response to questions, Psaki said she believes the incident that took place outside a restaurant in the government-held northwestern city of Idlib marked the first time that an American has been involved in a suicide bombing in Syria since the start of the three-year civil war there. It is not known how many people died in the blast.
In answer to a question as to whether there might be some sort of training ground in the United States for foreign fighters, Psaki said she did not want to speculate. She did say that that the United States is concerned about foreign fighters overall and is stepping up its level of monitoring.
"We are concerned about the flow of foreign fighters into and out of Syria," Psaki said. "It's difficult to provide that level of analysis or a precise figure, but we're engaged in a focused outreach effort with key partner government regarding our shared concern over the flow of foreign fighters to the Syrian conflict. Our partners across the region and Europe are also gravely concerned. That's an effort that's been ongoing for months now."
Opposition forces fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad have claimed that the bomber was American. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, told reporters in Miami on Friday that the bomber was from his state.
Opposition rebels tied to the al-Nusra Front, a group linked to al-Qaeda, said al-Amriki's truck was packed with 16 tons of explosives and targeted the al-Fanar restaurant, a gathering place for Syrian troops.
Opposition activist Asaad Kanjo, based in the town of Saraqeb, said he'd heard that al-Amriki arrived in Syria a few months ago and tore up his U.S. passport when he arrived.
"From what I heard, I believe he was an American of Arab origin," Kanjo said. "People said that he spoke Arabic with a foreign accent, and he used to speak classical Arabic."
Kanjo also said al-Amriki was a member of the Nusra Front but was not a commander. "Most probably he came to carry out this attack," Kanjo said.
The bombing by al-Amriki was one of four by suicide bombers carried out in the area in Idlib province.
Contributing: Associated Press
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