AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — The leader of an al-Qaida-linked Syrian rebel group vowed on Sunday to attack villages home to President Bashar Assad's minority sect to avenge a deadly alleged chemical weapons attack on opposition-held suburbs of Damascus last week.
Jabhat al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani's comments came in an audio recording posted on a militant website that usually carries al-Qaida and similar groups' statements. It also appeared on the group's Twitter and Facebook accounts, although the authenticity of the claim could not be immediately verified.
Last Wednesday's purported chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta has prompted U.S. naval forces to move closer to Syria as President Barack Obama considers a military response.
Al-Golani said he plans to target villages inhabited by Assad's minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam that dominates his regime.
Addressing the families of children killed in the alleged chemical attack, al-Golani said: "The revenge for the blood of your children is a debt to be paid back ... 1,000 rockets will be fired at them in revenge for the massacre of Ghouta."
In Jordan, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was set to meet with Arab and Western peers later in the day to discuss ways to bolster the security of Syria's neighbors against possible attacks, chemical or other, by Assad's regime, a Jordanian security official said.
The meeting, closed to the press and held at an unspecified location, gathers chiefs of staff from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan, the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to brief reporters.
"It underscores the regional concern about spillover effects of the Syrian conflict," the official said. He said the gathering will continue through Tuesday.