Violent protests hit Syria’s Sweida city

Updated 05 September 2015

Violent protests hit Syria’s Sweida city

BEIRUT: Druze gunmen in southern Syria killed six government security personnel during violent protests after a Druze leader and dozens of people died in two car bomb blasts overnight, a monitor said on Saturday.

The two explosions late on Friday and ensuing protests killed at least 37 people in and around the town of Sweida, a stronghold of Syria’s Druze minority, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters.
Druze leader Sheikh Wahid Al-Balous, who had opposed the Syrian government and insurgents fighting it, was killed by one of the bombs on the outskirts of Sweida, the Observatory said. The other blast took place in Sweida about the same time. Syrian state media confirmed the two explosions and a death toll of more than two dozen people, but did not mention Balous.
There was no claim of responsibility for either blast.
After the attacks, dozens of people protested outside government buildings in the Sweida area, setting cars alight and destroying a statue in the town of former president Hafez Assad, father of President Bashar Assad, the Observatory said.
The security personnel died during the unrest.
Sweida province has seen assaults from Islamic State fighters in the east and other insurgent groups, including the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, from the west, in separate attempts to advance on the area.
The area borders the Damascus countryside and Daraa province, both strategically important to Assad.
In fighting early in the summer, insurgents in Sweida province tried to capture a main road to Damascus. But such intense violence in Sweida, the province’s capital, is rare.

Security conference told of ‘Iranian menace’ to shipping in the Gulf

Updated 49 min 1 sec ago

Security conference told of ‘Iranian menace’ to shipping in the Gulf

  • “Aviation and maritime security are at the top of the policy agenda in the region,” says Bahraini FM
  • Pompeo warned of the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program

MANAMA: Delegates from more than 60 countries including Saudi Arabia met in Bahrain on Monday to discuss maritime security after attacks on tankers in the Gulf and Saudi oil installations, widely blamed on Iran.

“Aviation and maritime security are at the top of the policy agenda in the region,” Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa told the conference. “We must take a collective stand ... to take the necessary steps to protect our nations from rogue states.”

In a message to delegates, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned of the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.

“This meeting comes at a critical moment in history,” he said. “The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery, whether by air or sea, poses a serious threat to international peace and security.

“Together, we must all be committed to taking the necessary actions to stop countries that continue to pursue WMD at great risk to all of us.”

Countries taking part in the conference, including Israel, belong to the Maritime and Aviation Security Working Group, created in February during a Middle East conference in Warsaw.

“The meeting is an occasion to exchange views on how to deal with the Iranian menace and to guarantee freedom of navigation,” Bahrain’s foreign ministry said.

After the tanker attacks, the US formed a naval coalition to protect navigation. Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, joined in August, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE followed in September. The UK and Australia are the other main Western partners.