|Deaths in Syria
despite ‘no-shoot order’
|Security forces kill six people across Syria despite
an order from President al-Assad not to fire on protesters
|Up to six people are reported to have been killed in
protests across Syria despite an order from the country’s
president, Bashar al-Assad, to security forces not to fire
A leading human rights activist said on Friday three people
were killed in Homs, two in Damascus and one in a village
outside Deraa, the southern city where the revolt began two
months ago. He asked that his name not be used for fear of
“At first they opened fire in the air, but the people
continued on their way, and then they shot directly into the
crowd,” an eyewitness told the Associated Press news agency
by telephone from Homs.
Another rights campaigner said security police fired at a
night demonstration in the eastern town of Mayadeen,
injuring four people.
The first rallies on Friday erupted in the country’s mainly
Kurdish northeast, where protesters demanded an end to
military actions that activists say have killed hundreds of
Demonstrators chanting “Syria for all its sons”, “Long live
independent, free Syria”, and “The Syrian people are one”,
rallied after noon prayers in towns including Qamishli,
Amouda, Ras al-Ain and Derbassieh.
Video posted online also showed protesters in some areas
chanting: “We don’t like you!” and “Bye bye, Bashar”.
Organisers estimated 3,500 people, mainly Kurds, protested
in Amouda and up to 4,000 marched in Qamishli, including
Arabs and members of Syria’s Christian Assyrian sect.
“The Kurds are now expanding their participation in
demonstrations calling for freedom in the country, along
with other fellow Syrians. The army’s intervention is
condemned,” Ismail Hami, secretary-general of the Kurdish
Yakiti Party, told Al Jazeera.
Soldiers occupied mosques and blocked off major public areas
to head off protests, but demonstrations erupted anyway in
several major areas - including cities where the
government’s response has been particularly severe, such as
Homs and Hama.
The rallies also spread to new areas of the capital,
suggesting opposition to the 40-year Assad dynasty remains
unbowed despite one of the most violent crackdowns of the
Still, the turnout appeared to be lower than in previous
weeks – something that protesters attributed to the
widespread deployment of soldiers and security forces who
prevented people from leaving their homes, even to attend
“The army has transformed major mosques in the city into
military barracks where soldiers sleep, eat and drink,” said
a resident in the coastal town of Baniyas, where some of the
biggest protests have erupted in recent weeks.
“They’ve put up barriers and sandbags around the mosques,”
Three rallies were held on Friday in Damascus – the largest
number of protests held at one time there. The Damascus
protests are significant because they hit the seat of
|Indian PM backs Afghan
|KABUL (AFP) – Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on
Friday backed efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan through
negotiations with Taliban-led rebels, delivering a keynote
address to the parliament in Kabul.
India has previously been wary of President Hamid Karzai’s
policy of talking to the insurgents as it fears that
Afghanistan could come under control of a Taliban-influenced
government friendly to arch-rival Pakistan.
“Afghanistan has embarked upon a process of national
reconciliation. We wish you well in this enterprise,” said
Singh, who was given the rare opportunity for a foreign
leader to address parliament.
He said that Afghan MPs should make decisions about the
country’s future “without outside interference.”
“India will respect the choices you make,” he said. “Our
only interest is to see a stable, peaceful and independent
Afghanistan living in peace with its neighbours.”
India has been a major donor to Afghanistan since the fall
of the Taliban in 2001, and Singh announced on Thursday a
fresh package worth $500 million for new roads, social
programmes and health facilities.
Such support meant that Singh was warmly received during his
two-day visit to Kabul, but any sign of improving links
between India and Afghanistan raises hackles in Pakistan.
“India’s biggest objective is to have a friendly Afghanistan
and it does not want to leave it in Pakistan’s hands only,”
Pakistani analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai told AFP.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars since 1947, and
Islamabad sees having influence in Afghanistan as a
necessary balance to the perceived threat it faces from
The US-led coalition in Afghanistan has also backed Karzai’s
plan to reach out to the Taliban, who once sheltered
Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, but it has insisted fighters
first lay down their weapons.
After the killing of bin Laden in Pakistan on May 2, US
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the Taliban and
other rebel groups in Afghanistan to abandon links to
Al-Qaeda and join a peaceful political process.
The United States plans to start reducing troop numbers in
Afghanistan from July, with all foreign soldiers due out by
the end of 2014.
|Gaddafi: NATO bombs
can’t reach me
Libyan state television has
aired what it says is a statement by Muammar Gaddafi, in
which the Libyan leader denies reports that he has been
In the audio message, broadcast on Friday evening, Gaddafi
said he is alive and safe despite air strikes from the NATO
military alliance on his Bab al-Aziziyah compound in the
capital, Tripoli, on Thursday.
Gaddafi said he is in a place where NATO bombs cannot reach
“I want to tell you that your bombing will not reach me
because millions of Libyans bear me in their heart,” Gaddafi
said, thanking heads of state who had asked about his health
after the air strike.
“I tell the coward crusaders – I live in a place where you
can’t get to me,” he said.
His address came hours after Franco Frattini, the Italian
foreign minister, was reported to have said that he believed
Gaddafi had fled Tripoli, adding that the Libyan leader may
have been injured during NATO air strikes, the Reuters news
agency reported. Speaking in Tuscany, Frattini said he had
received information on Gaddafi from Giovanni Innocenzo
Martinelli, the Catholic bishop in Tripoli, adding that it
Earlier, the minister told the Italian daily Corriere della
Sera that “I am of the view that he has probably fled from
Tripoli, but not from the country.”
|Security forces mass in Yemen ahead of
SANAA (AFP) – Security forces massed in
the Yemeni capital on Friday ahead of rival demonstrations
for and against the regime of embattled President Ali
Abdullah Saleh, witnesses said.
Heavily armed Republican Guards and military vehicles were
seen reinforcing troops already guarding the presidential
palace, radio station and other key state buildings in
Sanaa, an AFP correspondent said.
Tensions were high ahead of Friday’s demonstrations arranged
by both sides as they have done for the past three months on
the day of weekly Muslim prayers.
Opposition activists dedicated the protests as a show of
solidarity with the people of Saada in the north, where
Zaidi Shiite rebels are based, while Saleh’s supporters are
due to mark Friday as a “Day of Unity.”
Armed forces led by dissident General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar
have tightened a cordon around University Square, dubbed
“Change Square,” to protect camping protesters from possible
attack by Saleh loyalists, witnesses said.
On Thursday night, Ahmar issued a statement condemning what
he called the “brutal and barbaric” repression and called on
government troops to disobey orders and refrain from firing
“Do not carry out orders from the regime to attack
protesters and their peaceful demonstrations,” he said,
adding it was a “heinous crime not approved by any law.”
The statement came after security forces and gunmen loyal to
Saleh killed 19 people in a 24-hour period ending Thursday,
prompting Washington to say the time has come for a transfer
In Taez, Yemen’s second largest city, protesters have
announced more demonstrations.
The latest escalation came after neighbouring Gulf
Cooperation Council states urged all sides in Yemen to sign
a transition plan aimed at ending the political bloodshed.
Saleh has stalled by refusing to sign in his capacity as a
president, insisting on endorsing the agreement as the
leader of the ruling General People’s Congress, contrary to
the demands of the opposition.
But the United States, a long-time backer of Saleh, has
thrown its support behind the GCC plan and urged Saleh to
sign a deal “now.”
Washington “is deeply concerned by recent violence
throughout Yemen, and joins (the European Union) in strongly
condemning these troubling actions,” State Department deputy
spokesman Mark Toner said on Thursday.
Around 175 people have been killed in the anti-government
|US stops short of recognising Libya
White House calls Benghazi-based
and credible”, but fails to grant full diplomatic
|The United States has stopped short of granting full
diplomatic recognition to Libya’s rebel council, but the
White House has said the council is a “legitimate and
credible interlocutor of the Libyan people”.
Mahmoud Jibril, who serves as the foreign minister of the
rebels’ National Transitional Council (NTC), met Tom
Donilon, the US president’s national security advisor, at
the White House on Friday.
“During the meeting, Donilon stated that the United States
views the [NTC] as a legitimate and credible interlocutor of
the Libyan people,” the White House said in a statement
released after the meeting.
“In contrast, Donilon stressed that [Libyan leader Muammar]
Gaddafi has lost his legitimacy to rule and reiterated [US]
President [Barack] Obama’s call for Gaddafi to leave
immediately,” it said.
Obama did not meet with the opposition leaders.
“Donilon and Dr Jibril discussed how the United States and
the coalition can provide additional support to the [NTC].
Mr Donilon applauded the [NTC’s] commitment to an inclusive
political transition and a democratic future for Libya,” the
The recognition stops short of what the NTC had sought. In
an op-ed published in the New York Times ahead of his
meetings in Washington, Jibril had written that the NTC was
seeking to be recognised as the “sole” legitimate
representative of the Libyan people.
The White House, however, has signalled that such a move
would be premature.
“I don’t anticipate action like that,” Jay Carney, the White
House spokesman, said.
Meanwhile, the US has stepped up financial assistance for
the anti-Gaddafi rebels, with Obama authorising $25m in
non-lethal assistance and $53m in humanitarian aid.
|13 rebels, bandits
killed in Philippines
MANILA (AFP) – Philippine forces have killed 13 communist
guerrillas and rebels-turned-bandits in separate clashes
over two days, police officials said on Friday.
In the latest incident, soldiers and police on Friday shot
dead eight former rebels as they were preparing to rob a
businessman, said local police intelligence chief
Superintendent Rick Villanueva.
The shooting came a day after soldiers and police clashed
with fighters of the communist New People’s Army (NPA),
killing five rebels and capturing four others, said a police
Both incidents took place in regions north of Manila where
the communist insurgents remain a serious threat, attacking
isolated military and police outposts and extorting money
from local businesses.
The NPA is the armed unit of the Communist Party of the
Philippines, which has been waging a Maoist rebellion since
From a peak of over 25,000 fighters in the 1980s, the
military and other defence experts believe it currently has
fewer than 5,000 guerrillas. Some rebels have turned to
robbery and other common crimes.
The government resumed peace talks with the rebels in
February after a seven-year lull and both sides said after
the first round of negotiations they believed a peace pact
could be signed by June, 2012.