Syria’s top Sunni Muslim cleric has warned Western countries against military intervention, threatening to retaliate with suicide bombings in the United States and Europe if his country comes under attack.
Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun gave a speech and told the U.S. and Europe that “we will prepare suicide bombers who are already in your countries if you bomb Syria or Lebanon.”
The state-appointed cleric and loyalist of Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad spoke to a delegation of Lebanese women who came to offer their condolences for his son’s death earlier this month at the hands of unknown gunmen.
Hassoun’s comments follow another warning by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, who threatened “tough measures” against any country that recognizes the newly formed opposition Syrian National Council. Moallem called the group “illegitimate.”
In Paris Monday, the European Union welcomed the creation of the council, calling it a “positive step forward.” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe met the group’s chairman but stopped short of granting the movement formal recognition, saying it was still being formed.
Meanwhile, activists said Syrian troops cracked down on government opponents in the flashpoint city of Homs again Monday after at least 31 people were killed in clashes across the country the day before.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 14 of those killed Sunday were civilians, including seven people shot dead by government security forces in the Homs region.
In Turkey Sunday, protesters held a small demonstration in Ankara against the death of Kurdish opposition leader Mashaal Tammo, who was killed Friday by unidentified gunmen at his home in Syria.
Tammo was a member of the new Syrian opposition council. His funeral in the town of Qamishli Saturday turned into a mass rally against the Syrian government. Syrian troops killed five people when they fired into the crowd.
The United Nations human rights office says more than 2,900 people have died in Syria’s anti-government unrest, which is now in its seventh month.