Al-Qaida's new leader is claiming solidarity with Syria's pro-democracy movement, while urging protesters there to direct their anti-government uprising also against the United States and Israel.
In a video message posted on Islamist websites Wednesday, Ayman al-Zawahri directly addressed the Syrian demonstrators who have risen up against President Bashar al-Assad's rule despite a bloody government crackdown.
The Egyptian-born Zawahri accused Mr. Assad of being a corrupt tyrant and “America's partner in the war on Islam.” He claimed that Washington wants to replace Mr. Assad with “a new ruler who follows America protects Israel's interests.”
There is little evidence of al-Qaida influence in the wave of demonstrations against the Syrian government or in any of the Arab Spring uprisings.
Earlier Wednesday, human rights activists in Syria said security forces killed at least 11 people during a sweep south of the capital, Damascus. They said troops also arrested at least 250 people during Wednesday's raid in the town of Kanaker.
The activists said residents threw stones and burned tires to try to stop the advancing troops, who were backed by a bulldozer and army tanks.
Witnesses said security forces took away many of those detained in buses after the raid.
Rights groups say Syrian forces have killed at least 1,600 civilians during the crackdown against more than four months of mounting protests.
The government has refused to accept blame for the violence and claims much of the unrest is caused by terrorists and Islamists.