Bomber kills 15 west of Damascus

Updated 27 November 2013
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Bomber kills 15 west of Damascus

DAMASCUS: A suicide bomber blew up a vehicle at a bus stop west of Damascus on Tuesday, killing at least 15 people, state television said.
“The terrorist explosion in front of the bus stop in Somariyeh was caused by a suicide attacker,” the broadcaster said in a news flash.
“It killed at least 15 citizens and wounded more than 30.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two children were among the dead.
“Nine of those killed were civilians, while six were troops,” said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers on the ground for its reporting.
Somariyeh neighborhood is home to “a complex housing families of soldiers fighting with the elite Fourth Division,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The Fourth Division is commanded by President Bashar Assad’s feared brother Maher.
The bombing came after mortar fire on several parts of Damascus killed six people, including two children, the Observatory said.
It also came as rebels, including Al-Qaeda loyalists, pressed a four-day-old offensive to lift a yearlong siege by the army of their positions in eastern suburbs of the capital.
Fighting raged in Adra, a strategic town northeast of the capital, while the army pounded the besieged rebel enclaves of Douma and Marj to its east, the Observatory said.
Hezbollah has sent “hundreds of fighters” to back the army in its bid to repulse the rebel assault, the watchdog added.
Health Minister Saad Al-Nayef accused the rebels of killing “five doctors, five nurses and two ambulance drivers” in the Qalamoun town of Deir Attiyeh after they seized it from the army last week.
In Nabuk, government airstrikes killed at least seven people, among them three children, the Observatory said.


Barzani makes comeback on both Kurd, Iraq fronts

Updated 3 min 35 sec ago
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Barzani makes comeback on both Kurd, Iraq fronts

  • ‘Now that he is the great heavyweight of Kurdish politics, no-one can do without him in Baghdad’

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq: A year after a disastrous independence vote he had championed in Iraqi Kurdistan, veteran leader Masoud Barzani has made a strong comeback both on the home front and in Baghdad.
While Iraq’s presidency, a ceremonial post, has gone to Barham Saleh of the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was on Sunday declared the clear winner of the September 30 parliamentary elections in the autonomous region of northern Iraq.
In the political maneuvering for ministerial posts in Baghdad, meanwhile, the KDP can also even boast it is the largest single party in Iraq. The party garnered 25 seats in Iraq’s legislative elections in May, contested mainly against party lists.
With 45 seats won in the 111-member Iraqi Kurdish parliament, Barzani’s party can form a majority without the PUK.
It can, in theory, rely solely on the 11-seat allocation reserved for the region’s minority Turkmen, Christian and Armenian communities.
“Now that he is the great heavyweight of Kurdish politics, no-one can do without him in Baghdad,” said Adel Bakawan, a research associate at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris (EHESS).
He predicted Barzani would seek the deputy premier, foreign and finance minister posts for the KDP in the federal government that is to be formed by November.
“He lost the gamble of the referendum, but the legislative (polls) in May were a tremendous moment of grace; he was courted by the Americans and the Iranians,” the two key powerbrokers in Iraq, he said.
Barzani looked down and out after the Kurdistan independence vote, which was ruled illegal by Iraq’s central government and resulted in Baghdad imposing economic penalties and retaking disputed territory.
The Iraqi Kurdish presidency has been left vacant since Barzani stepped down following the fiasco.
The appointment of a new president has been on hold, pending the drafting of a new Kurdish constitution for which no timetable has been set.
The leaders of the region’s top two political parties also took their rivalry to Baghdad, contesting the role of Iraqi president.
The PUK’s candidate Saleh won that race, maintaining a tacit accord between the two parties which sees the PUK take the federal presidency while the KDP holds the Kurdistan presidency.
Kurdistan is split politically and geographically between the KDP and the PUK, which won 21 seats in the region’s election, but unlike in the past they no longer have to work together to form a government.
According to political scientist Wathiq Al-Hashemi, the region could “see the return of two leaderships” but “regional pressures” from neighboring states are likely to rule out a return to the deadly clashes of 1994-2006 when the Kurds had rival governments.
Kurdistan’s parliamentary vote also saw the emergence of the New Generation movement, which was founded this year to channel public anger at the region’s elite.
The movement picked up eight seats in the vote, while the main opposition Goran (Change) party lost half of its seats and was left with 12 lawmakers.
Analysts put Goran’s losses down to the arrival of New Generation, whose candidates stood in opposition to the KDP and PUK.