Assad Defiant as Activists Report Surge in Syrian Government Attacks – Voice of America

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is remaining defiant amid widespread accusations his government carried out a deadly chemical attack last week, as monitoring groups say his forces along with Russia have escalated attacks on civilians in a clear challenge to the international community.

In his first interview since scores were killed in an April 4 chemical weapons airstrike on Khan Sheikhoun, Assad told the French news agency AFP the incident was a “fabrication” to justify a U.S. military strike.

“Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand in glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack, It wasn’t an attack because of what happened in khan Sheikhoun. It’s one event, its stage one is the play that we saw on the social networking and on TVs, and the propaganda, and the stage two is the military attack,” he said, adding that his country’s forces handed over all of its chemical weapons in 2013.

Assad said the “firepower” of his forces has not been diminished by the April 7 U.S. Cruise missile strike on al Shayrat, the airbase from where Washington says Syrian jets took off from to carry out a sarin gas attack.

WATCH: Assad on use of chemical weapons in Syria