World News

Syrian cleric warns U.S., Europe against attack

Syria's Mufti Ahmad Hassoun attends the opening of the two-day International conference on Islam held with the slogan "The Message of Peace in Islam" in Damascus June 1, 2009. REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri/Files

BEIRUT, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Syria’s most senior Sunni Muslim cleric has warned the United States and Europe that his country would unleash suicide bomb attacks in their countries if they launched military strikes against Syria.

Mufti Ahmad Hassoun, whose son was shot dead by gunmen in the northern province of Idlib a week ago, made the comments to a visiting Lebanese delegation late on Sunday.

“I say to the whole of Europe, I say to America: We will prepare our suicide bombers who are already with you if you bombard Syria or Lebanon,” Hassoun said in remarks broadcast by Al Jazeera television.

“From today an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

The United States and the European Union have condemned President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on six months of street protests, imposing sanctions on Syrian oil exports and some businesses, and pushing the United Nations to pressure Damascus.

But no country has suggested military intervention in Syria along the lines of the NATO action which helped Libyan rebels topple Muammar Gaddafi.

The United Nations says 2,900 people have been killed in Assad’s crackdown on the protests. Syria blames foreign-backed armed gangs for the violence and says 1,100 members of its army and security forces have been killed.

The assassination of the mufti’s son was the first attack on Syria’s state-backed clergy, who have supported Assad despite widespread Sunni Muslim resentment at decades of dominance by Assad’s minority Alawite sect.

Editing by Tim Pearce