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Al-Nusra Front to target Alawite faith, Assad 'over chemical attacks'- recording

Published time: August 25, 2013 13:39
A rebel fighter holds an improvised mortar shell, one of many stacked at a factory in the city of Aleppo, Syria's commercial capital, on July 7, 2013.(AFP Photo / Jm Lopez)

A rebel fighter holds an improvised mortar shell, one of many stacked at a factory in the city of Aleppo, Syria's commercial capital, on July 7, 2013.(AFP Photo / Jm Lopez)

The head of the Syria-based and Al-Qaeda linked Al-Nusa front has vowed unrestrained rocket attacks on Alawite communities, alongside attacks on President Bashar Assad’s government in revenge for an alleged chemical strike, according to a new recording.

“For every chemical rocket that had [has] fallen on our people in Damascus, one of their villages will, by the will of God, pay for it,” said Jabhat al-Nusra leader, Abu Mohammed al-Golani in the audio footage released on YouTube on Sunday. It was posted on a militant website which usually broadcasts the views of Al-Qaeda and similar extremist groups.

It simultaneously appeared on the group’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, suggesting that it was authentic. However, it could not immediately be verified for its authenticity.

“On top of that we will prepare a thousand rockets that will be fired on their towns in revenge for the Damascus Ghouta massacre,” al-Golani continued.

Assad’s government is largely comprised of Alawite Muslims – a branch of Shi’ite Islam whose villages’ al-Golani swore he would target. Alawites make up roughly 12 percent of Syria’s population.

The Al-Nusra front’s existing actions against minorities in northern Iraq have prompted concern after witness reports of kidnappings, rape and murder emerged in early August. The Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) issued reports that “hundreds of Kurdish civilians have been kidnapped, tortured and their houses have been looted and burned down.”

The Al-Nusra Front’s Sunni Muslims have claimed to be behind some of the most lethal bombings in Syria’s two-and-a-half year conflicts and have led some effective rebel offensives over the period. In April it declared that it was joining with Al-Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq group. It is considered a terrorist organization by the US.

Al-Golani’s vengeful comments come in the wake of an alleged chemical attack on Wednesday in an eastern suburb of Damascus. Death tolls from the reported assault vary from 136 to as high as 1,300.

On Saturday, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported that 355 had been pronounced dead, while hours later, the NGO Syrian Observatory for Human Rights placed the number at 322.

A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on August 24, 2013 shows bags of what the Syrian government claims to be materials used to make chemical weapons discovered in Jobar on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.(AFP Photo / SANA)

It was also just hours after UN disarmament chief, Angela Kane, arrived in the Syrian capital of Damascus to apply pressure on the Syrian government to grant access to the site of the reported attack in the Damascus suburbs that took place on Wednesday.

On Sunday, Syria has given the “green light” for UN experts to visit the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb, state TV reports, citing the Foreign Ministry.

Both the US and France have accused Assad's forces of carrying out the alleged attack.

A report released on Saturday indicated that the Pentagon was already making “initial preparations” for a cruise missile attack on Syrian government forces.

Moscow has commented that it was monitoring events surrounding the alleged attack. “We’re getting more new evidence that this criminal act was of a provocative nature,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich, said in a statement on Friday.

“In particular, there are reports circulating on the Internet that the materials of the incident and accusations against government troops had been posted for several hours before the so-called attack. Thus, it was a pre-planned action,”
he said.