Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has voiced his support for the Syrian uprising in a new video message released on jihadist forums, US website monitors said on Sunday. In the video titled Onwards, Lions of Syria, Zawahiri criticised the Syrian regime for crimes against its citizens, and praised those rising up against the government, the SITE Intelligence Group said. Zawahiri, shown in front of a green curtain in the video released Saturday which runs for over eight minutes, urged Syrians not to rely on the West or Arab governments, whom he said would impose a new regime subservient to the West. He called on Muslims in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon to support the uprising and remove the current regime which he condemned as anti-Islam.

Since March last year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government has carried out a bloody crackdown on an uprising in which more than 6,000 people have been killed. Arab League foreign ministers will meet on Sunday in Cairo to discuss their next move over the crisis. Long al Qaeda's number two, Zawahiri took over the helm of the group after Osama bin Laden was killed in May 2011 during a US special forces night raid deep in Pakistan.

The video is the latest of a number in which the militant chief has attempted to seize on the Arab Spring revolutions.

Al Qaeda has been absent from the popular protests that swept the Arab world last year, leading to the fall of leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia and provoking major unrest elsewhere. Analysts argue that the phenomenon has left the global terror outfit weakened and increasingly irrelevant.