The head of Syria’s Nusra Front, an offshoot of al Qaeda, urged insurgents on Monday to escalate attacks on the strongholds of President Bashar al Assad’s minority Alawite sect, in retaliation for what he said was the indiscriminate killing of Muslim Sunnis by invading Russians.
The audio message from Nusra’s Abu Mohamad al-Golani, posted on YouTube, said Russia’s military intervention since last week was aimed at saving Assad’s rule from collapse but was doomed to fail, as had previous Iranian and Hezbollah military support.
“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,” Golani said.
Nusra Front, a radical Muslim Sunni fundamentalist group, is one of the most powerful forces fighting the Syrian government in an increasingly complex conflict that Russia’s intervention has only worsened.
Golani describing the Russian intervention as a new Christian crusade from the east that was doomed to fail and came after a “string of victories made by the Mujahdeen” threatened Assad’s rule.
“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 has dramatically intensified its bombing campaign in recent days. Moscow says it is targeting the Islamic State militant group, but most of its strikes have hit other rebel factions fighting against Assad, some of which have the support of Arab powers, Turkey or the United States.
Rebels also say Russia’s “scorched earth” policy was killing dozens of civilians.