Al-Nusra Front, the Al-Qaeda-linked Syrian jihadist group, on Sunday vowed revenge strikes against villages from President Bashar Al-Assad’s Alawite community over claims his forces used chemical weapons, AFP reports.
“The Alawite villages will pay the price for each chemical rocket that struck our people in Damascus,” Al-Nusra front chief Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani said in an audio message posted on the Internet and on his Twitter account.
He added that “one thousand rockets will be used for this purpose”.
“It is a debt towards… our relatives in the eastern Ghouta,” he said, according to AFP.
“This regime attacked the eastern region (of Damascus province) with dozens of chemical rockets that killed hundreds of children, women and men,” Jawlani said, calling on opposition fighters across the country to take revenge.
Jawlani called on “the soldiers of Al-Nusra” to “spread their fire… before the end of the day and the setting of the sun.”
Assad hails from the Alawite community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam unlike most Sunni rebel groups fighting to topple him, including Al-Nusra, whose chief in March pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda.
Members of Al-Nusra and other rebel groups have committed atrocities during the Syrian civil war, including publicly beheading a Catholic priest who was accused of collaborating with Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.
Al-Nusra was once was the largest faction in the Islamist Front for the Liberation of Syria (ISIS), the 13-member rebel coalition that broke away from the main opposition force and has declared its own Islamic state in Aleppo.
Syria’s main opposition body, the National Coalition, has accused Assad’s forces of “massacring” more than 1,300 people in chemical weapons attacks on the outskirts of Damascus on Wednesday, which his regime has denied.
On Friday it was reported that a preliminary assessment made by U.S. and allied intelligence agencies has concluded that chemical weapons were indeed used by Syrian forces in the attack near Damascus.
It is believed the attack was carried out with high-level approval from Assad’s government.