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Al-Qaida inspired militant group calls on Syrians to kill country's president

CAIRO, Egypt: A militant Islamic group inspired by Al-Qaida called on the Syrian people Monday to assassinate their country's president, a day after the government held a referendum on granting him a second term.

Abu Jandal al-Dimashqi, the self-declared leader of Tawhid and Jihad in Syria, also urged all Arabs to topple their leaders, accusing them of being renegades, in an audiotape posted on a Web site commonly used by Islamic militants.

"Our people in Syria, how do you accept to be ruled by the vulgar Nassiries (Alawites) ... rise up as one man to chop their legs and heads," al-Dimashqi said in the 45-minute audiotape, the authenticity of which could not be verified.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is a member of the country's minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. A majority of the country's population is Sunni like Tawhid and Jihad, which means Monotheism and Holy War in Arabic.

Sunni Muslim extremist groups, including al-Qaida, fiercely oppose the Assad government because of its secular ideology. Assad's father, the late President Hafez Assad, crushed a Muslim fundamentalist uprising in the city of Hama in 1982. Thousands died in the violence.

"Do you think that you (Assad) will continue your new term in office? We have prepared for you a long guerrilla war ... and we will never show mercy to you," said al-Dimashqi.

Al-Dimashqi said Assad escaped an assassination attempt in Aleppo, 355 kilometers (220 miles) north of Damascus last month when a new soccer stadium opened, but he did not give details.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his host Assad and their wives attended the opening of a new stadium in Aleppo on April 3. There were no reports of an assassination attempt.

Al-Dimashqi's group first became known when its leader clashed with Syrian security forces and then blew himself up on the Syrian-Lebanese border in November. Al-Dimashqi may have taken over Omar Abdullah's leadership position since Monday's audiotape was his first appearance.

Al-Qaida in Iraq and other militant groups inspired by Al-Qaida have also used the name Tawhid and Jihad. The most prominent militant group in Syria is known as Jund al-Sham, but it is sometimes called the Jund al-Sham for Jihad and Tawhid. It is unclear if Monday's audiotape is from the same organization.

Al-Dimashqi accused all Arab leaders of being renegades in the audiotape because they resorted to non-Islamic legislation. He called on Arabs to topple them "and those who cannot carry guns, let them at least pray for the victory of the mujahideen."

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