Fresh clashes, shelling in Damascus and Aleppo: watchdog

Updated 16 September 2012

Fresh clashes, shelling in Damascus and Aleppo: watchdog

BEIRUT: Syrian troops on Sunday fought rebel fighters and shelled their bastions in the country’s two main cities Damascus and Aleppo, a day after UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi warned the conflict threatens world peace.
The fighting in Damascus erupted at dawn and was focused in the northeast suburb of Harasta, while the army shelled the southern suburb of Al-Hajar Al-Aswad from several directions, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Regime forces had deployed in force in Al-Hajar Al-Aswad on Saturday, sparking clashes with rebels that left eight people dead, some of them cut down by sniper fire, the Britain-based Observatory said.
In Aleppo, a child was killed in shelling during the night of the southwest Fardoss neighborhood, the Britain-based watchdog said, adding that a media activist with a rebel group was killed elsewhere in the northern city.
Regime forces also pummeled the eastern districts of Hanano, Sakhur and Sukari, where two rebels were killed early Sunday in shelling.
Fighting also broke out between the army and rebels in Jamiyat Al-Zahra in the west and in Izaa district, the Observatory said.
Violence has raged in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital, since July 20 when regime forces launched an offensive in a bid to drive rebels out of the city.
In the central province of Homs, a man was killed in shelling in the town of Tal Kalakh that borders Lebanon, while the town of Krak des Chevaliers also came under shelling, the Observatory said.
Another man was killed by sniper fire in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor while clashes also broke out in the town of Albu Kamal on the Iraqi border.
The violence followed a bloody day in which 115 people — 71 civilians, 12 rebels and 32 soldiers — were killed nationwide in Syria, according to the Observatory, which gathers its information from a network of activists, medical workers and other sources on the ground.
Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, warned after meeting President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Saturday that the worsening conflict in Syria threatens both the region and the world at large.
“The crisis is dangerous and getting worse, and it is a threat to the Syrian people, the region and the world,” said the newly appointed Brahimi, who took over as envoy earlier this month from former UN chief Kofi Annan.
The Observatory estimates that more than 27,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad’s rule erupted in March last year. The United Nations puts the toll at 20,000.

Utrecht attack: The Erdogan connection?

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the supporters of his ruling Justice and Development Party during a rally in Antalya, Turkey, on March 17, 2019. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)
Updated 5 min 10 sec ago

Utrecht attack: The Erdogan connection?

  • Saturday, 4 p.m.: Turkish president uses footage of Christchurch massacre to inflame election supporters
  • Monday, 11 a.m: Turkish gunman in Netherlands shoots three people dead in rampage on tram

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was heavily criticized on Monday for using the New Zealand mosque terrorist’s video footage to inflame his supporters at election rallies.

After Erdogan spoke, a Turkish gunman in the Netherlands shot three people dead on a tram. Gokmen Tanis, 37, was arrested on Monday night after an eight-hour manhunt in the Dutch city of Utrecht. Police said initially the incident was a terrorist attack, but they have not ruled out a family dispute.

The Turkish leader used the video footage, filmed by Brenton Tarrant as he killed 50 people in two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, at a series of election rallies the following day. He said Tarrant’s manifesto was to keep Turks from Europe.

As the footage of Friday’s attack played on a screen, Erdogan said: “What does it say? That we shouldn’t go west of the Bosphorus, meaning Europe. Otherwise, he would come to Istanbul, kill us all, drive us out of our land.”

Erdogan’s use of the video footage, which social media companies have been trying to block from their sites, was condemned in both New Zealand and Turkey. New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters raised the issue on a visit by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.


“Anything of that nature that misrepresents this country … imperils the future and safety of the New Zealand people and our people abroad, and it’s totally unfair,” Peters said.

“We had a long dialogue on the need for any other country, or Turkey for that matter, to ensure that our country, New Zealand, was not misrepresented.”

Turkey’s main opposition CHP party spokesman Faik Oztrak, said: “Is it worth showing this bloody massacre in order to gain a few more votes?”

In Utrecht, the man arrested for shooting dead three people on a tram had been detained previously on suspicion of being connected to Daesh, after he went to Chechnya to fight.

Gokmen Tanis, 37, is from Turkey’s central Yozgat province, the scene of several anti-Daesh operations in recent years. He has lived in the Netherlands since 1993.

Tanis was known to police for both minor and major crimes, including a shooting in 2013.

Suspect Gokmen Tanis is from Turkey’s Yozgat province, the scene of several anti-Daesh operations in recent years. AFP

The shooting took place in Kanaleneiland, a quiet residential district on the outskirts of Utrecht with a large immigrant population.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte convened crisis talks immediately after the incident. 

“Our country has today been shocked by an attack in Utrecht. A terrorist motive cannot be excluded,” he said.

Dutch police issued an image of Tanis and warned the public not to approach him. 

“It’s frightening that something like this can happen so close to home,” said Omar Rahhou, whose parents lived on a street cordoned off by police. “These things normally happen far away but this brings it very close, awful.”