Seven killed in attack on pro-regime Syrian TV broadcaster
Gunmen raided the headquarters of a pro-government Syrian TV station early yesterday, killing seven employees, kidnapping others and destroying buildings.
The government blamed terrorists and described the killings as a “massacre”.
Al-Ikhbariya TV is privately owned but strongly supports president Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Pro-government journalists have been attacked on several occasions during the country’s 15-month uprising.
“What happened today is a massacre,” information minister Omran al-Zoebi told reporters. He blamed terrorists – the word the government uses for rebels.
Much of the violence that has gripped Syria over the past 15 months has been sanctioned by the government to crush dissent. However, rebel fighters are launching increasingly deadly attacks on regime targets, and several suicide attacks this year suggest al-Qaeda or other extremists are joining the fray.
In reaction to the mounting violence, foreign ministers from the global powers and Middle East countries will meet in Geneva, Switzerland on Saturday to work out a way to end the conflict and bring about a political transition.
International mediator Kofi Annan called the meeting yesterday. Annan, who acts as envoy for the United Nations and Arab League, said he had invited foreign ministers from the five permanent UN Security Council members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – as well as the European Union, Syria’s neighbours Turkey and Iraq, and Kuwait and Qatar.
He made no mention in his statement of Iran, Syria’s main regional ally. The US, Britain and France had objected to any Iranian participation.
Annan said the aim of the one-day talks was to identify measures to secure full implementation of his stalled six-point peace plan and security council resolutions, including an immediate halt to all violence.
Al-Zoebi said gunmen stormed Al-Ikhbariya’s premises in the town of Drousha, about 14 miles south of the capital Damascus, and detonated explosives. He said the attackers killed seven people and kidnapped others.
In comments on state-run Syrian TV, he said the killings amounted to “a massacre against the freedom of the press”.
Most news organisations in Syria are either state-run or private bodies that carry the government’s point of view.
Earlier this month, two Al-Ikhbariya employees were wounded by gunmen in the north-western town of Haffa while covering clashes between government troops and insurgents.
Hours after the attack, the station was still on the air, broadcasting a rally in Damascus’ main square against the station raid.
Also yesterday, Burhan Ghalioun, the former leader of Syria’s main opposition group, said he briefly entered rebel-held areas in the north in a rare trip by the exiled political opposition to the country. Ghalioun told Al-Jazeera TV that the areas he visited in Idlib are ruling themselves..
Ghalioun, former head of the Syrian National Council, did not say when the visit took place.
“I went to see the war that the Syrian regime is staging,” Ghalioun said. “The regime continues to shell and kill.”
Ghalioun said he spoke with wounded Syrians including some who lost limbs and others who were paralysed.
Activists reported violence throughout Syria yesterday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least ten government soldiers were killed in an ambush in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour.
In neighbouring Turkey, some 30 more Syrian soldiers defected with their families overnight, the country’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Assad’s regime has suffered a string of high-ranking defections this week, with dozens of soldiers, including senior officers, reported to have fled to Turkey.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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