Nusra Front Leader Calls on Lebanese Sunnis to Defect from Armyإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The leader of al-Qaida's Syria affiliate, Abu Mohammad al-Jolani, has called on Lebanon's Sunnis to defect from the army.
"Sunnis, take your sons away from the army that serves your enemy, and make them join the ranks of the jihadists," al-Jolani, who heads al-Nusra Front in Syria, said in an audio recording on Sunday.
Sunni extremists perceive Lebanon's army as being controlled by Shiite Hizbullah, which has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to support President Bashar Assad's troops in a war that has killed more than 180,000 people in three years.
The Syria war has stoked existing tensions in Lebanon, where Sunnis tend to support the uprising against Assad while Shiites generally support the Damascus regime.
Last month, the Lebanese army fought pitched battles in the border town of Arsal with al-Nusra and Islamic State jihadists who streamed in from Syria.
The jihadists withdrew after a truce, but took with them police and military troops as hostages, three of whom were later executed.
Al-Golani also warned that his group would "use all possible means" to fight back against airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition and warned that the conflict would reach Western countries joining the alliance.
The U.S. views al-Nusra Front, as a terrorist group, but Syrian rebels have long seen it as a potent ally against both the IS -- which is the main target of the coalition -- and Assad's forces.
In the 25-minute audio recording, al-Golani portrayed the U.S.-led coalition as a "Crusader alliance" against Sunnis and vowed to fight back.
"We will use all that we have to defend the people of Syria...from the Crusader alliance," al-Golani said. "And we will use all possible means to achieve this end," he said, without offering more details.
He went on to warn Western countries against taking part in the alliance in words that echoed those of the late founder of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden.
"This is what will cause the battle to be transported to the hearts of your own homes; because Muslims will not stand idly by and watch Muslims be bombed and killed in their countries, while you are safe on your countries. The price of war will not be paid by your leaders alone. You will pay the biggest price," he said.
The recording appeared genuine.