Al-Nusra Front in Syria vows new offensive after Russian pullout

 15 Mar 2016 - 13:46

Al-Nusra Front in Syria vows new offensive after Russian pullout

Beirut: Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front is preparing to launch a new offensive, a jihadist commander said Tuesday, after Russia announced the withdrawal of its forces from the war-torn country.

"It is clear that Russia has suffered defeat, and within the next 48 hours Al-Nusra will launch an offensive in Syria," a commander of the group told AFP via Skype.

"The Russians withdrew for one reason, and it is because while they were backing the regime, the regime was unable to hold onto the territories that it took over," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Had it not been for the Russian warplanes, we would have been in Latakia (city)," he said, referring to the provincial capital of the heartland of President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite sect.

"The (Syrian) army let down the Russians. It is a cowardly army," he said.

Russia "will not make any more sacrifices for a regime that has basically collapsed."

Moscow began its air strikes in support of Assad's army in September, a move that helped regime forces to seize back territory from rebels.

A temporary ceasefire between Assad's forces and opponents has largely held since February 27, but it does not cover Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group.