firefighters work at the site of an explosion in Deir el-Zour, in this
handout released by Syria's national news agency SANA, May 19, 2012.
UN Chief Blames al-Qaida for Syria Attack
Syrian Protesters Rally in Northern Flashpoint City
Syrian Attacks Continue as Mass Protests Spread
May 19, 2012
exploded outside a Syrian state security compound in the eastern oasis
town of Deir el-Zour Saturday, killing nine people and wounding 100
others. Syrian TV accused terrorists of the blast, which appears to have
been the second major attack against a government security building in
just under 10 days.
The explosion took place in the parking lot of a government military and
air force intelligence compound in the oasis city near the Iraqi
Relatives of victims sobbed as they gathered at a local government hospital Saturday.
Syrian state TV showed video of buildings with their walls blown off and
rubble lining the streets for several city blocks. Syrian media blamed a
suicide car-bomber for the explosion and initially said that 1,000 kg
of TNT were used in the blast.
A woman whose home was badly damaged from the explosion says the power
of the blast sent debris flying all around her. She said that furniture,
doors, and windows were blown off at her home, as well at homes
nearby. Her daughter, she said, was injured and taken to a hospital.
Syrian TV showed members of a U.N. observer team visiting the scene of
the blast. Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi accused
“terrorists” as being responsible for the bombing at the Ghazi Ayash
complex in Deir el-Zour, often a veiled reference to rebel fighters.
A spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army in Deir el-Zour denied
responsibility. Omar Abu Layla told Radio Sawa that his group could “not
physically have reached the site of the blast because of government
security measures.” Another rebel commander told al Jazeera TV that the
blast was a “pretext for the government to intervene in Deir el-Zour.”
Analyst Nadim Shehadi of Chatham House in London says uncertainty about
who might be responsible for Saturday's blast, as well as other recent
similar attacks seems to be paralyzing the international community and
preventing it from taking action.
"It's a mind game. It's each side trying to prove its own merit, here,
and confusing the West basically into inaction. [This is] the main
reason why there is no clear policy on Syria," said Shehadi.
The opposition Syrian National Council and the government accused each
other of being responsible for Saturday's blast, as well as the bloody
twin-bombings in front of a government security compound in Damascus on
May 10. A shadowy group calling itself the al-Nusra Front claimed
responsibility for the earlier blasts in a recent video.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon indicated on Friday that al-Qaida
“may be responsible” for the May 10 explosions. U.N. spokesman Ahmed
Fawzi also pointed the finger at what he called a “third element.” Many
analysts, however, remain skeptical about possible al-Qaida involvement
in a number of deadly bombings since December.
left: Brent Vincent Betterly, 24, of Oakland Park, Fla., Jared Chase,
24, of Keene, N.H., and Brian Church, 20, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The
three men arrested May 16, 2012, in Chicago, accused of making Molotov
May 19, 2012
arrested amid tight security ahead of the NATO summit in Chicago, have
been charged with terrorism for possession of explosive devices.
The three were arrested Wednesday, and police said they were being held
for a hearing Saturday. Six others arrested at the same time were
President Barack Obama, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and French
President Francois Hollande (L to R) face the media as the G8 leaders
gather for a family photo at the G8 Summit at Camp David, Maryland, May
May 19, 2012
WHITE HOUSE - U.S.
President Barack Obama says the leaders of the world’s biggest
economies are beginning to agree that more jobs and more growth will
help reverse Europe’s economic crisis. The president spoke Saturday at
the end of the Group of Eight economic summit.
After two days of talks at the Camp David presidential retreat outside
Washington, Obama said the eight leaders acknowledge that budget cuts
alone will not restore Europe’s economy
pro-Syrian regime protester holds a portrait of Syrian President Bashar
Assad during a demonstration to show support for their president, in
Damascus, Syria. (File)
A key Syrian
activist group has threatened to pull out of the country's already
fractured opposition bloc because of complaints that it has strayed from
the spirit of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad
The Local Coordination Committees
said in a statement Thursday that the Syrian National Council, was
acting with "political incompetence." The LCC, a network of activists in
Syria, accused the SNC leadership of marginalizing council members,
monopolizing power, and not coordinating closely enough with activists
on the ground.
The SNC has so far had little success in unifying Syria's various
factions and minority groups, with many key activists already having
pulled out of the umbrella group.
The most recent dispute came earlier this week when the SNC voted to
extend the term of its leader Burhan Ghalioun by another three months,
despite concerns among some that he was too closely linked to Syria's
The SNC was designated in March as the formal representative of Syria's
opposition in response to international calls for unity among the
country's various opposition groups.
Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
reported fresh attacks by the Syrian government on Thursday. The group
told VOA that government forces sent at least 30 shells into the
rebel-held town of Rastan, north of Homs, during a 10-minute-long attack
just after midnight.
Hours earlier, Syrian President Assad suggested in a rare television
interview that he has little intention of ending his deadly crackdown on
dissent, despite international condemnation and a peace plan that calls
for a ceasefire.
Assad told a Russian television station that his government is fighting
foreign-backed terrorists - not democracy activists - as part of his
14-month crackdown against an opposition uprising.
He insisted that he faces little domestic opposition, instead blaming
the unrest on foreign mercenaries who want to see him overthrown. He
said armed opposition groups, such as the Free Syrian Army, are filled
with criminals and religious extremists.
"It's not an army, first of all, and it's not free because they get
their arms from different foreign countries, Assad told the interviewer.
"That's why they're not free at all. They are a bunch of criminals who
have been violating the law for years and have been sentenced in various
criminal cases. They are religious extremists like those from
Assad also accused U.N. observers in Syria of unfairly criticizing
violence by government forces and ignoring attacks by terrorists.
The presence of the U.N. observer team has done little to stop the
bloodshed. On Wednesday, Syrian activists said government shelling and
gunfire killed at least nine people across the country, most of them in a
region where a part of the U.N. team was caught up in a deadly shooting
and bomb blast the day before.
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.
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.
Dzogaz watches the television broadcast of the court proceedings of
former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic's in her home in Potocari, near
Srebrenica, May 17, 2012
udge has suspended the war crimes trial of Bosnian-Serb wartime general Ratko Mladic on its second day at The Hague.
Media reports cite errors by the prosecution as the reason for the stoppage.
On the first day in the long-awaited war crimes trial Wednesday, the defiant 70-year-old taunted the families of victims.
International prosecutors have indicted Mladic on 11 counts, including
genocide, they allege were committed during the early 1990s in
The prosecution presented video and transcripts of Mladic's phone
conversations as evidence of his role in killing civilians during the
43-month siege of Sarajevo.
Mladic is also accused of ordering the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and
boys in the U.N.-protected Srebrenica enclave in July 2005.
Prosecutors say they will use evidence from more than 400 witnesses,
though very few of them will testify in court. The first witness is
scheduled to appear May 29.
But Mladic is considered a hero by many Serbs, especially in Bosnia. He
was arrested a year ago in Serbia, after 16 years on the run as one of
Europe's most wanted men. Observers say he could not have been in
hiding so long without a support network.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei answers reporters' questions in Beijing, China (FileBEIJING - China Central Television and the Beijing News are reporting a rare public maritime spat between China and North Korea.
A North Korean gunboat is reported to have seized several Chinese
fishing boats, with a total of 29 people onboard, in the Yellow Sea
earlier this month. The North Koreans who areholding the boats and
sailors demanded nearly $190,000 for their release and set Thursday as
the deadline, or else they will sell off the boats.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei indicated that there is a conflict, but he gave few details.
He said China is maintaining close contact with North Korea to try to
find an early solution to the case. He also demanded that the other side
ensure the safety, rights and interests of the detained Chinese
The spokesman did not elaborate, when asked to confirm whether a ransom
is being demanded or whether China suspects any North Korean government
Chinese fishing boats have occasional conflicts with South Korean,
Japanese and Philippine authorities while fishing in disputed waters,
but it is rare for them to be seized by North Koreans. There are also
reports that there are Chinese among the hijackers.
Meanwhile, the spokesman also had little to say about four South Koreans
who are being held in northeastern China after authorities detained
them in March.
Earlier this week, the South Korean foreign ministry said Seoul has asked Beijing to handle the case in a fair and swift manner.
The Chinese spokesman Thursday would only say that “competent Chinese
authorities have been investigating this issue according to law.”
The South Koreans under detention appear to have been in contact with
North Korean refugees in northeastern China to find out about life and
conditions in their homeland.
Workers stand on scaffolding at a road construction site in Beijing (File).
HONG KONG - The
Chinese government is seeking to reassure workers of their rights, a
move activists say highlights Beijing's concern that possible labor
unrest could cause disruptions to social stability.
China's latest economic figures indicate the country's robust economic
growth continues to slow, with exports, industrial output and retail
sales posting lower growth than last year.
The numbers also indicate that inflation and rising consumer prices have
slowed - a key goal of leaders worried about the needs of hundreds of
millions of middle and lower class workers.
But there is one economic indicator that continues to be a major concern
for officials trying to maintain social stability: wealth disparity.
The main economic indicator of the wealth gap - a measurement known as
the gini coefficient - has not been released by authorities in more than
Premier Wen Jiabao recently visited bus drivers and sanitation workers
in Beijing to reassure them of his commitment to worker rights. The
visits did not occur by chance, says Geoffrey Crothall of the Hong
Kong-based China Labor Bulletin.
political leaders (from left to right) Aleka Papariga, Evangelos
Venizelos, Antonis Samaras, Greek President Karolos Papoulias, Alexis
Tsipras, Panos Kammenos and Fotis Kouvelis meet at the presidential
palace in Athens, May 16, 2012.
Greece has sworn in a senior judge as the country's new caretaker prime minister.
An image grab
taken from a video uploaded on YouTube allegedly shows an
anti-government demonstration in the Syrian town of Kafrruma in the
restive Idlib region near the border with Turkey on May 11, 2012.
Mass protests broke out across Syria on Friday, a day after at least
55 people were killed in twin bombings that marked the deadliest attack
since the start of the anti-government uprising 14 months ago.
car bomb explosions in Damascus Thursday were among a string of attacks
that have occurred since U.N. observers arrived in Syria to monitor a
shaky cease-fire brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan.
State television reported Friday that troops killed a suspected
suicide bomber in the northern city of Aleppo. The report said the
would-be attacker's car was filled with 1,200 kilos of explosives.
Syrian government on Friday urged the U.N. Security Council to take
action to combat terrorism, in the wake Thursday's blasts.
media said the government made the plea in letters to the Security
Council and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon. It said "escalating crimes" were
proof that Syria is facing terrorist attacks led by groups receiving
Later Friday, there was an explosion near the ruling Baath Party
headquarters in Aleppo. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said
there were no reports of casualties in the blast but one guard killed in
a round of gunfire that followed the explosion
Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad after Friday prayers in Yabroud, near Damascus, May 11, 2012.
As repeated bombing attacks hit Syria, concerns are rising that
al-Qaida terrorists may be opening a dangerous new chapter in a conflict
that has killed thousands of people.
Protesters flee gunfire in the Syrian town of Aleppo. And near
Damascus, amateur video shows United Nations peace monitors edging their
vans through anti-government protesters.
The protests came after massive car bombs Thursday killed more than
50 people. The bombs raise fears that the Syrian conflict could be
worsening as al-Qaida terrorists step into the political chaos.
“I think this is a symptom of the fact that the conflict is
attracting the influx of jihadists who are often involved in these kinds
of suicide attacks. And specifically it looks like al-Qaida,” said
Heritage Foundation senior Middle East analyst James Phillips.
The Syrian government is urging the U.N. Security Council to take action in the wake of the blasts.
It says they are proof that Syria is facing terrorist attacks led by groups receiving foreign support.
Until now, Syrian groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s
government were mostly secular nationalists, but that seems to be
“I think it is a sign that the conflict is intensifying and that it
is bringing into play a whole new dynamic of Islamists who are
determined to hijack the revolution,” said Phillips.
The United Nations is deploying 300 unarmed observers to Syria to
monitor compliance with a ceasefire, which has not yet taken hold.
“We have all our sympathies and condolences for the families of the
people who have lost their loved ones in such incidents. This is what
has to stop and that is exactly where we are focused,” U.N. spokesman
The U.N. monitoring mission is widely seen as failing because the violence continues to escalate.
"And now we see some elements of the opposition are violating the
proposed ceasefire and that will give the Assad regime another pretext
for continuing what it is already doing, which is massacring its own
people," said Phillips.
There are concerns that Syria’s slide into chaos will give extremists more space to move in and operate.
soldiers hold a map to study the location of the plane crash, during a
briefing at Halimun National Park near Bogor, May 10, 2012.
Indonesian rescuers say they have discovered bodies near the
shattered wreckage of a Russian jetliner that crashed into the side of a
steep cliff south of Jakarta during a demonstration flight.
say rescue operations will continue, but warn there is little chance of
finding any survivors among the estimated 50 people aboard the Sukhoi
Superjet, which went missing on Wednesday.
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the crashed jetliner was located Thursday
on a steep edge of Mount Salak, a dormant volcano south of the capital.
airplane crashed at the edge of Mount Salak. I have spoken directly to
our officer in the field. It was around 1.5 kilometers from the informed
point of scene. An investigation must be done immediately and
thoroughly. Search and rescue operations must prioritize finding people
on board," he said.
Family members of the victims who had
gathered at a Jakarta airport broke down in tears when they heard that
the wreckage of the plane had been located.
initially hampered the search for the plane, which took off from
Jakarta's Halim Airport shortly after 2 p.m. local time Wednesday. It
was expected to return in less than an hour. But the plane dropped
altitude from 3,000 to 1,800 meters and lost contact with air traffic
control around Mount Salak, which is 2,200 meters high.
Transport Ministry said the 100-seat new passenger plane built by
Russia in a move to boost its civil aviation industry, was on the second
of two demonstration flights when it disappeared in the remote Bogor
region. The people on board were all invited guests and included
Indonesian airline and aviation executives, eight Russian crew members
and five local journalists.
Russia has high hopes for its Superjet, which it believes would become an influential player in the global aviation market.
Itar-Tass news agency said the newly-minted plane recently performed
demonstrations in Central and South Asia, including flights in
Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Burma and had logged about 6,500 hours of
flight time since its 2008 maiden launch.
The jetliner is currently in use with Russia's largest carrier, Aeroflot, and the Armenian carrier, Armavia.
South Sudan says Sudan has carried out cross-border airstrikes in violation of a United Nations-backed cease-fire.
spokesman Kella Dual Kueth on Wednesday accused Sudan of bombing and
shelling sites in four northern states - Unity, Upper Nile, Western Bahr
el Ghazal and Northern Bahr el-Ghazal.
A commissioner of Raja
County, in Western Bahr e-Ghazal, Riziq Dominic, told VOA the air
strikes began Monday and continued Tuesday and Wednesday.
the other plane finish dropping their load, the other one come and
drop. I think there are around three planes. Even today I am talking
to you they are still dropping," he said.
Last week, the U.N.
Security Council passed a resolution that called on the two Sudans to
cease hostilities by Saturday or face possible sanctions.
neighboring countries have accepted "in principle" an African Union
roadmap for an end to the fighting. The deal calls for the Sudans to
settle their disputes in 90 days or face binding international
Rising tensions have pushed the countries to the brink of war, just 10 months after South Sudan formally split from the north.
countries have yet to resolve critical issues from their split,
including citizenship questions and disputes over oil revenue and
The fighting has displaced tens of thousands of people
along the two countries' border area, creating a humanitarian crisis
that aid agencies say is rapidly growing worse.
actually started bombing my areas in the last two days, since Monday
evening," said Riziq Dominic. "They have been bombing Siramalaga,
bombing northern of Bormedina, bombing Firika and also bombing Timisa.
It comes plane after plane. When the other plane finish dropping their
load, the other one come and drop. I think there are around three
planes. Even today I am talking to you they are still dropping. They
have started Monday afternoon, the whole night, they are doing the whole
today and even today they are doing it."
Traveler passes through security check point at Portland International airport in Portland, Oregon, April 30, 2012
U.S. media reports say a man sent by al-Qaida's branch in Yemen to
blow up a U.S.-bound airliner was actually a double agent who
infiltrated the terror network and convinced the terrorists to trust him
with a new bomb designed to pass through airport security.
U.S. and foreign intelligence officials said Tuesday the secret
operative was working for Saudi Arabia's intelligence service and the
CIA. They say he posed as a would-be suicide bomber and volunteered for
the mission that involved explosives concealed in his underwear. The
operative was able to turn over his sophisticated explosive device to
U.S. officials, who are analyzing the bomb at the FBI's laboratory in
They say the operative also obtained
information that led to a successful airstrike Sunday against al-Qaida
leader Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso in Yemen. Quso was wanted for his
role in the 2000 bombing of the USSCole warship off Yemen, which killed 17 U.S. sailors.
informant's identity has not been disclosed. Unidentified officials say
the operative spent weeks gaining the trust of members of Al-Qaida in
the Arabian Peninsula.
Reports indicate that the U.S.
administration had planned to keep the bomb operation secret but The
Associated Press learned of it last week. The news organization delayed
reporting the story at the request of the Obama administration.
officials have said the plot by al-Qaida's branch to put a suicide
bomber on a U.S.-bound jet was detected in its earliest stages and that
no U.S. airliner was ever at risk.
Authorities say the bomb was a
redesign of an explosive underwear device intended to blow up a jet
flying from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan on December 25, 2009.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the incident is a reminder that
America and its allies are still targets of terrorist plots.
A roadside blast wounded six Syrian soldiers as they escorted United
Nations monitors toward the restive southern town of Dara'a.
The explosion hit a military vehicle accompanying the U.N. convoy, blasting out its windows
A statement from the office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
said the blast, and other violence throughout Syria, "call into question
the commitment of the parties to the cessation of violence."
mission leader Norwegian Major General Robert Mood was part of the
convoy and condemned the attack. He is quoted by his spokesman as
saying it was "an example of what the Syrian people were suffering on a
daily basis" and that "all forms of violence must stop."
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the bombing "another
example of why we have got to continue to put the pressure on the Assad
regime." She "the bulk of the responsibility" for the violence is in
the hands of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
and injuring those inside. The head of the U.N. monitoring mission,
General Robert Mood, was in the group headed toward Dara'a, but neither
he nor any of the observers was hurt.
One of the wounded soldiers
described the scene. He said the U.N. delegation and the military
escorts had just crossed a checkpoint when the bomb exploded.
An Associated Press reporter traveling behind the convoy said the blast set off a thick plume of black smoke.
The U.N. vehicles are reported to have passed by the blast site only seconds before.
one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which comes one day
after the International Committee of the Red Cross noted the armed wing
of the opposition has turned increasingly to guerrilla tactics. The
rebel Free Syrian Army, which has relied largely on machine guns and
rocket-propelled grenades, has been out-gunned by the heavy weaponry of
the Syrian military.
The U.N. observer mission is in Syria to
monitor a cease-fire agreed to by both sides last month. Hundreds of
people have been killed in fighting, hoever, since the truce went into
effect. The U.N. has acknowledged the challenge of the mission, which
now comprises several dozen monitors plus civilian advisers. The U.N.
plans to boost the team to 300 by the end of the month.
violence of the past 14 months has wearied many Syrians who have not
taken sides in the conflict. The aim of the U.N. plan is to create an
atmosphere that is calm enough to allow political talks to get underway,
something Damascus University student Rawan Tahmoush hopes will happen
She said all parties should make concessions for the
country's sake. In the end, she added, the country is "ours, whether we
are for the government or against."
Watch the interview with Rawan Tahmoush