Attack close to Turkish border with Syria kills at least four

 

A SUICIDE bomber yesterday blew himself up outside a police headquarters in the northeastern city of Qamishli, killing at least four and wounding many more, Syrian state media reported. Activists put fatalities at eight. Located on the Turkish border, Qamishli, which had not been previously targeted, has a large Kurdish community.

The attack suggests that the rebels, backed by Turkey, may be trying to embroil Kurds in the conflict. Last Friday, pro-government Kurdish districts of Aleppo came under rebel attack.

Damascus has had close ties with the Turkish Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which founded the main Syrian Kurdish political movement. In recent months, the PKK has stepped up operations against Turkish troops in the southeast of that country.

The Syrian army shelled rebel strongholds across the country as fierce fighting continued in Aleppo, where the medieval market was devastated by fire on Saturday. According to witnesses, the blaze began in an electricity transformer during an exchange between troops and rebels holed up in a medieval Turkish bath in the Old City, or al-Medina.

Aleppo, with a population of nearly three million, has been the focus of the conflict in the north for the past six weeks. The largely pro-government city had been spared until then but has become a strategic prize for both sides as it dominates the north of the country.

State news agency Sana said the army had mounted a “successful operation” against “terrorist concentrations” in Aleppo’s western districts.

The city’s industrialists and merchants were, however, sharply critical of the government for failing to protect factories and commercial enterprises. Chairman of the chamber of industry Fares al-Shihabi said guards had to be hired to prevent looting.

State television reported that 17 people were massacred and seven were kidnapped by “armed terrorist groups” in the central province of Homs.

In Damascus province, rebels reportedly attacked an army checkpoint, killing nine soldiers, while troops entered Harasta, northeast of the capital, and raided the resort town of Zabadani to the west.

Mokhtar Lamani, head of the Damascus office of UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, held talks in Homs with the provincial governor, Ghassan Abdelaal, and with rebel Free Syrian Army Col Kassem Saadeddine in the town of Talbisseh. Mr Lamani also met with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

Speaking to a conference of the ruling Justice and Development Party, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Russia, China and Iran to abandon the Syrian regime. Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi, who attended the congress, pledged to stand by Syrians “until the blood- shed ends, the cruel regime is gone” and they achieve “their just rights”.

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Minister for Trade and Development Joe Costello has announced that Ireland will dispatch emergency supplies to assist civilians forced to flee Syria.

The shipment of tents and blankets will be used by Syrian refugees in Jordan, including in the Za’atari refugee camp, which Mr Costello visited in August. According to the Jordanian government, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees have sought shelter in Jordan, many living in dangerous conditions.

Mr Costello said: “I am acutely conscious of the devastating humanitarian toll this crisis has had on innocent civilians and the pressures it is placing on host countries such as Jordan. With the increasing numbers of refugees and the imminent onset of winter, Jordan has issued an appeal for additional supplies for the camp.”