The Nusra Front, al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, is offering a $3.4-million-dollar bounty for Syrian President Bashar Assad, the militant group's leader said in a recorded voice message posted online Monday, according to the Middle East Monitor. Recent Russian intervention in the region indicated that the Syrian regime was headed toward collapse, said Abu Mohamed al-Jolani, who called on supporters to step up attacks against the Assad's remaining strongholds across the country.
"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," al-Jolani said in the message, according to the Telegraph.
— Hugh Naylor (@HughNaylor) October 13, 2015
Al-Jolani also offered a $2.3-million-dollar bounty for the Lebanese Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who leads a Shiite militia that has fought alongside the Syrian regime.
The Nusra Front is listed as a terrorist organization by the Pentagon, and its spread in Syria since the country spiraled into a bloody civil war has been a source of concern for Western security analysts. The extremist group’s strength, matched by the rise of the Islamic State group, also known by ISIS, is believed to have weakened moderate, Western-backed rebels. The Nusra Front and ISIS have considerable differences in their vision for Syria and have battled each other for power.
— Danny Gold (@DGisSERIOUS) October 12, 2015
Much of the online statement was directed at the Russian airstrike campaign in Syria, which has stepped up in recent days. Al-Jolani referred to it as a modern Crusade.
"The war in [Syria] will make the Russians forget the horrors of what they faced in Afghanistan,” the Nusra Front leader said. “The new Russian invasion is the last dart in the weaponry of the enemies of Muslims and the enemies of Syria."
The Russian bombing campaign has targeted both ISIS militants and other anti-Assad rebel factions, including some that are supported by the U.S. Al-Jolani accused Russia of killing civilians and urged supporters in the Caucasus region to stage attacks against Russia.