GENEVA -- An independent U.N. panel has confirmed that an increasing number of 'foreign elements,' including jihadis, are now operating in Syria.
The investigative panel appointed by the Human Rights Council says some of these forces are joining armed anti-government groups while others are operating on their own.
The head of the panel, Brazilian diplomat and professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, told diplomats Monday in Geneva that "such elements tend to push anti-government fighters towards more radical positions."
Activists say at least 23,000 people have been killed in Syria in the past 18 months.
Syrian authorities have blamed the anti-government uprising that began in March 2011 on a foreign conspiracy and accused some Gulf and Western countries of offering funding and training to the rebels, whom they describe as terrorists.
The Associated Press