In a video message, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called for Muslims to rally for a war to oust Syria's Bashar al-Assad.
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called for the ouster of Syria's "pernicious, cancerous regime," raising fears that Islamist militants will try to exploit an uprising against President Bashar Assad that began with peaceful calls for democratic change but is morphing into a bloody, armed insurgency.
The regime has long blamed terrorists for the 11-month-old revolt, and Zawahiri's endorsement creates new difficulties for the US, its Western allies and Arab states trying to figure out a way to help force Assad from power. On Sunday, the 22-nation Arab League called for the UN. Security Council to create a joint peacekeeping force for Syria, but Damascus rejected it immediately.
In an eight-minute video message released late Saturday, Zawahri called on Muslims to support Syrian rebels.
"Wounded Syria is still bleeding day after day, and the butcher (Assad) isn't deterred and doesn't stop," said Zawahri, who took over Al Qaeda after Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces in Pakistan last May. "However, the resistance of our people in Syria is escalating and growing despite all the pains, sacrifices and blood."
The United Nations estimates more than 5,400 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began in March. But that figure is from January, when the UN stopped counting because it couldn't gather reliable data there anymore.
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