Assad Says Syria Is Fighting Foreign Mercenaries
In his first interview in nearly half a year, Syrian President Bashar Assad claimed Wednesday that his regime had captured foreign mercenaries who were fighting for the opposition in a bid to show his forces were fighting terrorists instead of pro-democracy activists.
Assad spoke in an interview broadcast on Russian state news channel Rossiya-24, signaling he has no intention of softening his position despite an international peace plan that includes a cease-fire.
He said the decision by the Syrian National Council to boycott parliamentary elections earlier this year discredited the opposition group.
“To call for boycotting the elections, that’s the equivalent of calling for a boycott of the people,” Assad said. “And how can you boycott the people of whom you consider yourself the representative?
“So I don’t think that they have any kind of weight or significance within Syria,” Assad said in remarks translated into Russian.
Assad said religious extremists and al-Qaida members from abroad are among the forces fighting his government.
“There are foreign mercenaries, some of them still alive. They are being detained and we are preparing to show them to the world,” he said.