'Step aside': Al-Qaeda-linked leader urges violence, slams Geneva participants
The head of al-Qaeda's former affiliate in Syria has called on opposition leaders to "step aside" and criticised their willingness to negotiate with the Syrian regime at UN-brokered negotiations currently taking place in Geneva.
Fatah al-Sham chief Abu Mohammed al-Joulani made the demand in a rare broadcast where he also claimed responsibility for a deadly bombing in regime-controlled Homs, Syria.
"It has been demonstrated to them that this regime only understands the language of force and blood... these politicians... are handing the regime a victory without it having to win," Joulani said in a rare video address released on Monday.
The Fateh al-Sham chief also re-iterated Fateh al-Sham's responsibility for deadly bombings targeting regime security facilities in Homs on Saturday.
The attack left dozens dead including a top intelligence chief and close confidant of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which opposition leaders in Geneva condemned.
"This operation is a lesson to the defeated politicians in Geneva, and previously in Astana," Joulani said, referring additionally to Russia-Turkish brokered negotiations that have taken place in the Kazakh capital recently.
"This lesson will wipe off some of the shame that has followed those gambling with the lives of the Syrian people," added Joulani.
He stated that similar attacks targeting regime facilities would follow.
Fateh al-Sham is not represented in talks in Geneva aimed at ending Syria's six-year war and has been targeted by airstrikes carried out by both Russia and US-led coalition aircraft.
However, the group - formerly known as al-Nusra Front - has also formed alliances against the Assad regime with rebel groups over the course of Syria's civil war.
The Geneva talks - the fourth of such talks organised under the auspices of the UN - have been defined by an atmosphere of pessimism, with expectations low that they will facilitate a transition to peace.
The Higher Negotiations Committee - an umbrella organisation created to represent the Syrian opposition in UN backed peace talks - is set to meet with a Russian delegation on Tuesday with the aim of pressuring Damascus to begin negotiations.