The leader of the al-Nusra Front, Syria’s al-Qaeda offshoot, reportedly called on jihadists to intensify attacks on Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s minority Alawite sect of Shiite Islam in retaliation for Russia’s military intervention.
In an audio message posted on social media, al-Nusra chief Abu Mohammad al-Golani urged attacks on Alawite strongholds in response to what he described as the indiscriminate killing of Sunnis by the Russian military, Reuters reports.
The terrorist leader declared that Russia’s invasion of Syria was aimed at preventing Assad from losing power, but was doomed to fail.
“There is no choice but to escalate the battle and to target Alawite towns and villages in Latakia and I call on all factions to … daily hit their villages with hundreds of missiles as they do to Sunni cities and villages,” reportedly said Golani said.
“Does the Russian government think that the regime’s army and Bashar al Assad can be saved with a few more planes and artillery?” mockingly asked Golani, adding, “The Russian strikes to this day have not added more than those of the regime in their indiscriminate targeting…and they will be defeated at the doorsteps of Damascus.”
He referred to the Russian intervention as a “new Christian crusade from the east” that was destined to fail and came after a “string of victories made by the Mujahideen” threatened the Assad regime.
“The war in Cham (Syria) will make the Russians forget the horrors of what they faced in Afghanistan. The new Russian invasion is the last dart in the weaponry of the enemies of Muslims and the enemies of Syria,” he said.
Russia began launching airstrikes in Syria at the end of September and has intensified its campaign in recent days.
Despite U.S. opposition, Moscow has targeted groups that are fighting against Assad, including American-backed Syrian rebels.
Russia insists that it is targeting the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), but evidence shows it has targeted areas where the group does not maintain a presence.
The al-Nusra leader noted that while Russian strikes were hitting rebel groups whose fighters were actively engaging the Assad regime, it was leaving ISIS-controlled areas untouched.
“(The Russians) clearly know Islamic State does not threaten the regime as the areas it controls do not adjoin the regime’s heartland. So it is not a surprise that it had begun its bombing of those brigades that directly confront the regime’s forces,” he said.
Although it has been the focus of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, the al-Nusra Front has maintained control of a swathe of northwest Syria.
“As well as fighting Assad’s regime, the group has clashed with Western-backed rebels as well as with its jihadist rival ISIS,” notes Arutz Sheva. “Last November, Al-Nusra and ISIS temporarily agreed to work together.”
In a previous message, the al-Nusra chief reportedly declared that his group would not target Syria’s Alawite minority.
“Our war is not a matter of revenge against the Alawites despite the fact that in Islam, they are considered to be heretics, ” he said at the time, adding, “Our fight is strictly with those who attacked us and murdered our people.”