Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said he supports the Syrian uprising in a new video message released on jihadist Internet forums, U.S. monitors said on Sunday.
Zawahiri accused the Syrian regime for crimes against its citizens in the video titled “Onwards, Lions of Syria.”
“Don’t depend on the West or America, or the Arab governments and Turkey,” he said, according to the SITE Intelligence Group 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.
The al-Qaeda chief condemned the current regime of Bashar al-Assad, labeling it as “anti-Islam” and called on Muslims to support the uprising.
Assad’s regime has waged a bloody crackdown on an anti-regime uprising which has claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people since protests erupted in mid-March.
The Arab League and Western powers have heavily condemned the crackdown and imposed international sanctions on Syria in an effort to halt the bloodshed.
But the death toll still mounts on a daily basis. Arab League foreign ministers were to meet in Cairo on Sunday to discuss their next move in the crisis.
Throughout the protests, Assad has claimed there has been al-Qaeda involvement in the uprising which has fueled battles between security forces and protesters.
But a U.S. media report citing unnamed American officials said al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch was likely to have carried out bombings in Syria’s second-largest city Aleppo on Friday which killed 28 people and wounded 235, as well as attacks in Damascus in December and January.
However, al-Qaeda has been absent from the popular protests that swept the Arab world last year, leading to the ouster of autocratic, secular leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, and sparking unrest elsewhere.
“I appeal to every Muslim and every free, honorable one in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, to rise to help his brothers in Syria with all that he can,” Zawahiri was quoted as saying as he was shown in front of a green curtain in the eight-minute video.
Long seen as al-Qaeda’s number two lead, Zawahiri took over the helm of the group after Osama bin Laden was killed in May 2011 in a U.S. special forces night raid deep in Pakistan.
Jihadists want to travel to Syria
Jihadist forums, meanwhile, have said that Muslim volunteers are travelling to Syria from a string of Arab countries to fight against Assad’s secular regime.
One jihadist site, Ansar al-Mujahedeen, has a page called: “Lions of Al-Sham -- the news of jihad in glorious Syria,” which purports to publish news “as it arrives from the lions in Syria.”
The reports it carries cannot be independently verified.
One of the members of the forum, using the name Nasr al-Din al-Hosni, on Thursday announced “the death of Emir Abu Osama al-Muhajar on the Iraqi-Syrian border, after he managed to smuggle ammunition” from Iraq to Syria.
The page also said that a fighter named Abu Hamza al-Shami was killed “in a military operation in Zabadani (near Damascus) on Wednesday”.
“We ask God to accept him in his heaven, and that we follow him,” it said.
The page also referred to the death of Abu al-Buraa al-Sulti in Aleppo, saying he was the first fighter who came from Jordan to fight in Syria.
“The first (jihadist) who died was Abdullah Dulaimi,” known by the nickname Abu Tabarik, in the area of Abu Kamal, a city in Syria near the Iraqi border, the page said. The Dulaim are a major Sunni tribe in western Iraq.
The page also referred to “the arrival of Abu Hudhaifa al-Kuwaiti in Al-Sham, where the ground was blessed with his soul, from his country (Kuwait).”
Many members of the forum commented on the posts with prayers for those who were killed, and for those who are going to Syria to fight.
“We need the support of the mujahedeen in every way so that we do not lose Al-Sham (Syria),” wrote one, using the name Muslim Suri Halabi Hurr.
The posts about the presence of jihadists in Syria come after calls were published on jihadist sites to send fighters and weapons to “support the Sunnis and fight against the Nusayris,” a pejorative reference to Syria’s Alawite minority, from which Assad hails.
In an article published Thursday on the Ansar al-Mujahedeen forum entitled: “We will not let you down,” Nasir al-Din al-Hosni wrote: “The men of the state (the Islamic State of Iraq -- an Al-Qaeda front organisation) are increasing and the emirs of the state are roaring.
“The state is starting to send its most beloved men and their pure blood is watering the land of Syria,” he wrote. “Soon, you will hear what will make your heart smile.
“Please do not forget your martyr brothers who died in the past days in Syria.”
On the Honein jihadist forum, Khaled bin al-Waleed on Wednesday commented on an article headlined: “What if the revolution in Syria fails?” saying: “The lions of Islam in Syria are fighting an already dead regime.”
Abdullah al-Qaysi also commented on the page, saying: “This Nusayri coward (Assad), if he was a true man, would go to the scene of the fighting, but in any case, the lions of Islam are now close to his dirty neck.”
Abu Abdullah al-Makhzumi said on the same page that “the fight has come and the doors of heaven are open. Let’s go to jihad, let’s go to jihad.”
Haidar al-Ansari said: “My wish is to go there (Syria), but how? Is the road clear?”
Al-Sadaa bil-Haq replied: “Yes, my brother, the road is clear and there are men who already went there, and they are now fighting against” Assad.
The Honein forum gave Islamic names to six groups that are said to be fighting the Syrian army in and around Homs and Zabadani, and in recent weeks began publishing their statements.