Syrian rebels mount seaborne assault


Gunmen in inflatable dinghies attacked a military unit on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, today in the first seaborne assault in a 13-month-old uprising against president Bashar al-Assad.

The nocturnal raid, along with the killings of at least 15 people in violence in two areas near the capital Damascus, underlined the threadbare state of a two-week-old, UN-brokered ceasefire accord.

The official Sana news agency said several gunmen and soldiers were killed in a firefight that followed the coastal attack near the northern port of Latakia, 35km south of the Turkish border.

"The fighting ... resulted in the death and wounding of a number of military personnel while the number of those killed from the terrorist group was not known because they attacked the military unit at night," Sana said. It did not state the nationality of the attackers.

Damascus has accused Turkey of allowing weapons and funds to flow to insurgents throughout the uprising, the latest in a wave of revolts across the Arab world against autocratic rule. Turkey also plays host to the leadership of the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Lebanese authorities found weapons including rocket-propelled grenades and rifles on board a ship intercepted in the Mediterranean which may have been trying to supply Syrian insurgents, security sources said.

In a village north of Damascus where army defectors had taken refuge, activists said Syrian forces killed at least 10 people. And overnight, five members of the security forces were killed in an explosion targeting two vehicles near Damascus, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The United Nations says Syrian forces have killed 9,000 people since the start of the revolt in March 2011. Syrian authorities blame foreign-backed militants for the violence and say 2,600 soldiers and police have been killed.

Most independent media have been barred from Syria, making it hard to verify accounts of events on the ground.

The April 12th ceasefire arranged by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has only modestly reduced the degree of daily carnage, with both sides accusing each other of multiple breaches of the truce.

Yesterday, a suicide bomber killed nine people including security officers at a Damascus mosque. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The blast was close to the site of a January 6th suicide bombing later claimed by a previously unknown, anti-Assad Sunni Islamist group calling itself the al-Nusra Front.

The latest suicide attack was just one of five explosions to hit the capital yesterday, leading to suggestions that insurgents may be changing tactics and embarking on a sustained bombing campaign aimed at the seat of Dr Assad's power.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday the Syrian government had not complied with commitments it made under the ceasefire plan, while Dr Assad's government says rebels have flouted the deal.