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Jordanian militant threatens Assad regime in Syria

A militant leader in Jordan, who has been linked to al-Qaida and several high-profile attacks, warned Syrian President Bashar Assad, 'our fighters are coming to get you.'

By Jamal HalabyAssociated Press / September 9, 2012

Syrians chant anti-Assad slogans during a protest in front of the Syrian embassy in Amman, Jordan Sept. 7. On Sunday, a militant leader in Jordan threatened attacks against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Mohammad Hannon/AP

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Amman, Jordan

A Jordanian militant leader linked to al-Qaida warned Sunday that his extremist group will launch "deadly attacks" in neighboring Syria to topple President Bashar Assad, as Damascus lashed out at France for backing Syrian rebels.

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In a speech delivered to a crowd protesting outside the prime minister's office in Amman, Mohammad al-Shalabi, better known as Abu Sayyaf, told Assad that "our fighters are coming to get you."

Abu Sayyaf is the head of the Salafi Jihadi group, which produced several al-Qaida linked militants who fought US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 10 years. They are also blamed for the 2002 assassination of US aid worker Laurence Foley outside his Amman home.

The militant leader was himself convicted in 2004 of plotting attacks on Jordanian air bases hosting American trainers, but served his term and was released last year.

Militants linked to al-Qaida, many from Iraq but also reportedly several from Jordan, are believed to have made inroads among Syrian rebels as the civil war their intensifies.

The warning came hours after Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi criticized France, saying its growing support for the opposition does nothing but undermine the mission of the new U.N. envoy tasked with brokering a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

France, Syria's one-time colonial ruler, has been one of the most outspoken Western critics of the Assad regime, and announced earlier this month that it has begun sending direct aid and money to five rebel-held Syrian cities as part of its intensified efforts to weaken Assad. It was the first such move by a Western power amid mounting calls for the international community to do more to prevent bloodshed.

Makdessi said France suffers from "schizophrenia" in its approach to the country's conflict.

"On the one hand, it supports Brahimi's mission, while at the same time it makes statements demonstrating that it supports the militarization of the crisis in Syria," Makdessi told The Associated Press.

French officials have acknowledged providing communications and other non-lethal equipment to Syrian rebel forces, but say they won't provide weapons without international agreement. France played a leading role in the international campaign against Libya's dictator Moammar Gadhafi last year.

Diplomatic efforts to solve the seemingly intractable conflict have failed so far. A peace plan by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan never got off the ground and Annan quit his post as special U.N. envoy. He was replaced on Sept. 1 by Lakhdar Brahimi, a 78-year-old former Algerian foreign minister.

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