Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad appeared to agree on Friday with U.S. President Donald Trump, saying some of the millions of refugees who have fled his country’s conflict are “terrorists”.
Speaking in an interview with Yahoo News and quoted by AFP, Assad was asked about Trump’s claim that extremists are hiding among refugees, and replied, “You can find it on the net.”
“Those terrorists in Syria holding machine guns or killing people, they are peaceful refugees in Europe or in the West,” he added.
Assad did not specify how many of the 4.8 million Syrian refugees he meant, saying, “You don’t need a significant number to commit atrocities.”
Syria is included in Trump’s recent executive order on immigration, which bars people from seven majority Muslim nations from entering the U.S. for 90 days. It also temporarily halts the United States’ refugee resettlement program for 120 days, while indefinitely suspending resettlement for refugees from Syria.
On Thursday, an appeals court in San Francisco rejected the Trump administration’s request to resume his executive action, which had been halted by a Seattle judge last week.
In Assad’s interview with Yahoo News, he rejected Trump’s plan to carve out safe zones for civilians in Syria.
The U.S. president said last month that he “will absolutely do safe zones in Syria” for people displaced by the violence in a bid to reverse their migration to Europe and elsewhere. He did not provide details.
“Safe zones for the Syrians could only happen when you have stability and security. Where you don’t have terrorists. Where you don’t have flow and support of those terrorists by the neighboring countries or by Western countries,” Assad said, adding, “It’s not a realistic idea at all.”
Assad has indicated in the past that Trump could be a “natural ally” of Syria if he fulfills his pledge to fight “terrorists”.
The Syrian President uses the word “terrorists” to describe all rebels fighting his regime, including both jihadist group as well as Western-backed moderate rebels.
In Friday’s interview with Yahoo News, Assad also dismissed an Amnesty International report of torture and mass hangings in one of his military prisons as “fake news”.
“You can forge anything these days,” Assad said when asked about the report estimating that between 5,000 and 13,000 prisoners were killed in a “calculated campaign of extrajudicial execution” at a military prison outside of Damascus between 2011 and December 2015.
“We are living in a fake news era,” he added.
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