AP Interview: Jihadi head says Gaza groups growing

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A leader of one of Gaza's secretive jihadist groups says the al-Qaida-inspired movement has gained strength and boasts several thousand armed fighters in the seaside strip.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Abu Bakir al-Ansari described a movement that is larger and better organized than is generally believed.

Abu Bakir says Gaza's Salafis have agreed with Hamas to observe a truce with Israel for now. But he says the fighters are ready to fight at any time "without any consultation with Hamas."

Salaris are radical and ultraconservative Islamic groups that dream of turning Gaza into an Islamic caliphate. The groups have created problems for Hamas, carrying out a string of attacks while accusing the Islamic militant group of being too soft on Israel and failing to impose religious law.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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