BEIRUT: An Al Qaeda-linked group fighting alongside Syrian rebels claimed responsibility on Monday for a suicide car bombing that reportedly killed dozens of President Bashar Assad’s loyalists last week.
In Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius pleaded for countries to honour their pledges of funding and other aid to the Syrian opposition to keep the country out of the hands of insurgent groups.
“If we don’t give the means to the Syrian people to go achieve their freedom, there is a risk, and we all know it exists, that massacres and antagonisms amplify, and that extremism and terrorism prevail.
“Chaos is not tomorrow, it is today, and we need to end it.
“We need to end it in a peaceful way and that means increased and concrete support to the Syrian National Coalition (SNC).”
Three SNC vice-presidents attended the Paris gathering, which came two days before a donor conference in Kuwait.
The Paris meeting brought SNC leaders together with officials from around 50 countries.
“We cannot allow a rebellion that began as (a) peaceful and democratic protest degenerate into confrontation between rival militias,” Fabius said.
“This conference has to send a clear signal, (that) it has one concrete objective: give the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) the means to act.”
France has led moves to have the SNC recognised internationally as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
Jabhat Al Nusra, which the US says has ties to Al Qaeda and has declared a terrorist organisation, said in a statement posted online that one of its suicide bombers detonated a car bomb on last Monday at the headquarters of a pro-government militia in the central province of Hama.
Activists said at least 42 people, mostly pro-Assad militiamen, were killed in the blast.
On Monday, activists said troops battled rebels in several towns and villages around Damascus, including in Daraya, Arbeen and Zabadani.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the regime’s forces also shelled several of the capital’s suburbs.
In the north, troops clashed with rebels in Al Hasaka province along Syria’s border with Turkey, the Observatory said, adding that at least 10 rebels were killed in the fighting that erupted on Sunday.