News / Middle East

    Syrian Activists: Government Attacks Kill 9

    A Syrian rebel walks in Khaldiyeh neighborhood, Homs province, May 15, 2012.
    A Syrian rebel walks in Khaldiyeh neighborhood, Homs province, May 15, 2012.
    VOA News
    Syrian activists say government shelling and gunfire killed at least nine people across the country on Wednesday, most of them in a region where U.N. military observers were caught up in a deadly shooting and bomb blast the day before.

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces opened fire in the northwestern town of Khan Sheikhoun, killing five people a day after at least 20 mourners were shot dead at a funeral procession.

    Six U.N. monitors who were visiting the town at the time of Tuesday's incident left on Wednesday after spending the night with opposition activists who said they were protecting the foreigners. The U.N. team's convoy was struck by a roadside bomb shortly after the Tuesday shootings, but none of the observers were hurt. It was not clear who caused the blast.

    U.N. mission chief Robert Mood, a Norwegian general, said Wednesday the monitors told him they were well-treated and were heading back to base. He expressed gratitude to the Syrian government for "facilitating" the observers departure from Khan Sheikhoun.

    The U.N. personnel are part of a larger group of observers who have deployed across Syria to assess government and rebel compliance with a fragile April truce brokered by international mediator Kofi Annan.

    In other violence, the Observatory said government troops killed three people at a refugee camp in the southern province of Daraa and a fourth person in a shelling attack in the central Homs region. The rights group said another 15 civilians had been executed in Homs city since Tuesday. None of the casualties could be independently confirmed.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Wednesday that his forces have captured and killed an undisclosed number of foreign mercenaries as part of a crackdown on a 14-month opposition uprising. In his first interview in six months,  Assad told the Russia-24 television channel that his government is "preparing to show [the mercenaries] to the world."

    The Syrian president has long-accused foreign-backed terrorists of driving the revolt against his 11-year rule. The uprising began with peaceful pro-democracy protests but became increasingly militarized as Syrian rebels began to fight back against security forces who attacked protesters.  

    Mr. Assad also accused U.N. personnel in Syria of unfairly criticizing violent actions by government forces and ignoring attacks by terrorists. He said he will raise the complaint with Mr. Annan later this month, when he said the international envoy will visit the country.

    In another part of his interview with the Russian state-run network, the Syrian president said the participation of Syrians in a parliamentary election earlier this month shows they support the political reforms he has introduced to address the country's uprising. Russia is a key military ally of Assad and has supported his reform pledges.

    Syria said the election drew a 51 percent turnout, but opposition groups boycotted the vote and said few people cast ballots in rebellious towns and cities across the country.

    Farhan Haq, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told Alhurra television that continued violence in Syria indicates that both sides need to uphold the provisions of Annan's framework for peace.

    "They need to abide by that agreement," said Haq. "They need to cease all violence and we are going to do what we can to calm the situation down and press both sides to do just that."  

    Middle East analyst Nadim Shehadi says incidents such as the Tuesday blast near a U.N. convoy will eventually hamper the work of the monitors.

    "It is certain that them being targeted will affect their mission," he said. "They will not be able to conduct their mission and they will be subject to more manipulation by the regime for security reasons."

    The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed in violence related to the anti-government uprising that erupted more than a year ago. The Syrian government has blamed armed terrorist groups for much of the country's unrest.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
     

    Join the conversation on our social journalism site -
    Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on
    Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora