New al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has voiced his support for the Syrian uprising in a new video message released on jihadist Internet forums, US monitors said yesterday.
In the video titled Onwards, Lions of Syria, al-Zawahiri criticized the Syrian regime for crimes against its citizens and praised those rising up against the government, SITE Intelligence Group said.
Al-Zawahiri, shown in front of a green curtain in the eight-minute video released on Saturday, urged Syrians not to rely on Western or Arab governments, which he said would impose a new regime subservient to the West.
“Don’t depend on the West or America, or the Arab governments and Turkey,” he said, according to the SITE translation. “[They] had deals, mutual understanding and sharing with this regime for decades.”
“Depend on Allah alone and then on your sacrifices, resistance and steadfastness,” he added.
He called on Muslims to support the uprising and remove the current regime which he condemned as anti-Islam.
The al-Qaeda leader described the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a “pernicious, cancerous regime that suffocates the free people in Syria.”
Since March last year, al-Assad’s regime has waged a bloody crackdown on an uprising in which more than 6,000 people have been killed.
Arab League foreign ministers met in Cairo yesterday to discuss their next move in the crisis.
Arab League officials said the 22-member group was considering reviving its suspended observer mission in Syria, expanding it to include monitors from non-Arab, Muslim nations and maybe involvement by the UN.
The officials said the proposal would be discussed by a “Syria Group” made up of seven member states led by Qatar.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the proposals had not yet been adopted.
Meanwhile, gunmen have assassinated an army general in Damascus in the first killing of a high ranking military officer in the Syrian capital since the uprising against al-Assad’s regime began in March, the country’s state-run news agency said.
The attack could be a sign that armed members of the opposition, who have carried out attacks on the military elsewhere in the country, are trying to step up action in the tightly controlled capital, which has been relatively quiet compared to other cities.
SANA news agency reported that three gunmen opened fire at Brigadier General Issa al-Khouli on Saturday morning as he left his home in the Damascus neighborhood of Rukn-Eddine.
Al-Khouli was a doctor and the chief of a military hospital in the capital.
Captain Ammar al-Wawi of the Free Syrian Army, a rebel group that wants to bring down the regime by force, denied involvement in the assassination, which came a day after two suicide car bombers struck security compounds in Aleppo.
As the Arab League meeting got under way, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that army shelling yesterday killed at least four civilians in the protest city of Homs, including three in the rebel stronghold of Baba Amr.
The Observatory’s Rami Abdel Rahman said that another 30 tanks and armed personnel carriers were on the way to Homs, which armed forces have pounded for more than week.
Forty-five people were killed nationwide on Saturday, mostly civilians, the Britain-based Observatory said.
Homs activist Hadi Abdullah accused policemen and soldiers of pillaging the city’s Inshaat district.