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'German spies cooperating with Assad,' Bild reports

Germany's foreign intelligence service, the BND, has begun cooperating with the Syrian secret police, a German paper has said. The two agencies reportedly share intelligence on Islamist extremists.

The German Intelligence Service (BND) did not immediately comment on Friday's 'Bild' article, which came as Berlin and other Western governments shun official cooperation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over human rights abuses.

"I can't comment on operative details of the BND's work," German government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz told reporters.

The BND has not commented on the report.

But the mass-circulation daily, citing unnamed "informed sources," said BND intelligence agents had been travelling regularly to Damascus for talks with the infamous Syria's mukhabarat secret police. The paper said the German spy agency also wants to establish a station inside the shuttered German embassy.

The report said the intelligence agents are there to exchange information on Islamist extremists.

Deutschland Syrien-Einsatz Tornado Aufklärungsflugzeug

German Tornado reconnaissance jets have been deployed to Turkey's Incirlik air base this month to support the military campaign against "Islamic State" fighters in Syria.

German wings over Syria

Germany's parliament approved a plan two weeks ago to support a US-led airstrike campaign against Islamic State insurgents in Syria by sending

Tornado reconnaissance jets,

a frigate to help protect the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, refueling aircraft and up to 1,200 troops.

German media have called the mission Chancellor Angela Merkel's "first war" and have highlighted the risks of German pilots crashing in territory held by Islamic State militants.

The newspaper report said the BND also wants a channel of communication with Assad's regime in case a German pilot is shot down and needs to be rescued.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen

recently suggested limited cooperation between Berlin and Damascus

in the interest of defeating "Islamic State."

jar/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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