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Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Suicide Car Bomb Kills More than 50 Regime Troops

See also Bahrain Special: Growing Concerns Amid Questions Over Bombs and A Tide of Repression

Bahrain Timeline: The Regime's Path of Repression from 23 September to Today
Monday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Talks and Declarations as 234 Die on Sunday

2205 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne reports:

The Bahrain government has revoked the citizenship of 31 Bahrainis who are members of the opposition. The individuals include opposition leader Dr Saaed Shehabi, former AlWefaq MPs Jalal Fairoz and Jawad Fairooz, academic Abdulhadi Khalaf, and Ali Mushaima, the son Hussan Mushaima, leader of Haq and current political prisoner. In a statement published by Bahrain State media, listing the names, the Interior Minister claims it was done on grounds of "state security".

Bahrain expert Marc Owen Jones notes that Twitter account @7areghum tweeted the names before state media:

This is a concerning return to the worst of last years repression. In a recent article, Owen Jones noted that the @7areghum account was still active, despite it being cited in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report:

Trolling in Bahrain has became so severe that a report commissioned to investigate human rights abuses in the country last year actually mentioned it. In particular, it focused on the actions of @7areghum, a Twitter account that “openly harassed, threatened and defamed certain individuals, and in some cases placed them in immediate danger”. The legal experts charged with compiling the report concluded that @7areghum broke Bahraini law and international law. Despite this, the Bahrain government do not appear to have asked the US government to subpoena Twitter to release information about the account.

2023 GMT: Kuwait. A former Kuwaiti MP has accused Jordan of sending mercenaries to Kuwait to assist in the suppression of protests. The claim, by Musallam Al-Barrak, adds to rumours which had been circulating, however Al-Barrak's allegation was coloured by his views of the Jordanian monarch whom he called a "Zionist king". Jamaan Al-Harbash, another former MP, reportedly corroborated the claim.

Whilst the Jordanian government has yet to make a formal response to the allegations, Jordanian MP Attia Khalil called the comments "racist, hateful and reflective of the lack of stability in Kuwait".

1655 GMT: Bahrain. EA's John Horne reports:

Minister for Information Sameera Rajab has claimed that yesterday's reported bombings, which killed two migrant workers, "bear the hallmarks of Hezbollah". Speaking to Russia Today, as reported by Bahrain state media, Rajab claimed that those responsible "are the same groups which committed similar acts since February, 2011, and probably over the past ten months".

Expanding on her comments yesterday, Rajab directly accused Sheikh Ali Salman, the Secretary General of AlWefaq, of responsibility, saying:

What we are going through today is the escalation 'promised' by Al Wefaq Chairman Ali Salman who stated once that 'this is part of what we can do, and we are capable of doing even more'.

Rajab offered no evidence for her accusations, beyond "stressing that the recent surge in violent acts reflects Hizbullah's training, nature of attacks and targeted sides".

Sameera Rajab's appointment as Minister for Information was controversial. At the time, the Christian Science Monitor described her as having "a track record of stirring up sectarian tension".

In a separate interview to Sky Arabia, Rajab also raised the spectre of Iran, accusing the country of orchestrating a continuous campaign against Bahrain since February 2011. The report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, accepted by the King, found no evidence of Iranian involvement. However, Rajab offered as proof the fact that "19 pro-Iran satellite channels" have supported the opposition, describing this as "compelling evidence of Iran's role".

1623 GMT: Syria. Not that long ago there was no evidence that Assad was using air strikes, or that the major suburbs of Damascus were being targeted by the worst violence. What seems routine over the last month or so was an unthinkable horror this spring. Now, massive explosions, the result of air strikes, rock eastern Damascus every day - and each day the size of the bombs seems to grow.

This was reportedly the scene in the Hammoriyah suburbs of Damascus today:

1555 GMT: Syria. Yesterday we posted many videos showing FSA units capturing a checkpoint at the Layramoon district on the edge of Aleppo, including a video of an FSA captured armored vehicle destroying an Assad armored vehicle. Today, The Guardian spoke to a FSA fighter in the area:

Up to 300 fighters surrounded the Lairmoun checkpoint in Aleppo for seven days. Yesterday at midday, more than 30 FSA fighters using three tanks and rockets, confiscated in previous battles, stormed the checkpoint.

It was reinforced by the regime to stop the FSA fighters getting to northern areas of Aleppo. It also the hub of communication between the Syrian army command in Damascus and Aleppo.

There was a fierce battle that lasted for more than five hours. FSA fighters were able to confiscate four tanks and blow up another. Many soldiers were killed and other fled the checkpoint to some deserted buildings and houses behind it.

If this report is completely accurate, it means that even positions that have been reinforced recently are now falling to the FSA. This is perhaps another sign that the Syrian military is very much affected by the lack of supplies due to the fighting in Idlib province.

Furthermore, when the FSA made significant advances into Aleppo over a week ago, there were speculations that the move was some sort of trap, or that the regime would be repositioning its forces. There is no evidence of this, as for the most part the FSA is advancing in the city and its surrounding countryside.

However, likely as a result of the truce with Kurdish forces (see previous updates), The Guardian also reports that the FSA has withdrawn from one largely-Kurdish district that was captured in this advance:

Yousif also claimed rebels have withdrawn from an area in central Aleppo after a dispute with Kurds. He said the FSA had withdrawn from the criminal security branch the in Asharafiyia district. "The FSA do not want to have a tension with Kurds right now, but after the liberation of Syria we will not allow any attempt for dividing Syria or creating small states within Syria," he said.

1546 GMT: Syria. David Cameron has stated that if, by offering Syrian President Bashar al Assad a place to flee to, the UK government could help end the conflict in Syria, then he is interested in negotiating that deal:

“Done. Anything, anything, to get that man out of the country and to have a safe transition in Syria,” Cameron told the Al Arabiya news network in Abu Dhabi when asked about offering Assad safe passage.

“Of course I would favor him facing the full force of international law and justice for what he’s done. I am certainly not offering him an exit plan to Britain but if he wants to leave he could leave, that could be arranged,” he said.


“A future without Assad, but a future where rights of minorities including Christians should be safe guarded and a future where you have a Syria that is at peace with its neighbours that’s what we all want and so there are great dangers if the situations is allowed to continue,” said Cameron. He added he believe Britain has played its part enough.

Amnesty International has already criticized the statement:

"David Cameron should be supporting efforts to ensure that he faces justice, ideally at the International Criminal Court at The Hague," the human rights campaign group said in a statement.

1534 GMT: Bahrain. Yesterday saw a sharp escalation in violence, with the government claiming that at least 5 bombs exploded, sending dozens of injured civilians to the hospital. EA's John Horne has written an in-depth timeline of the recent escalation of violence, and he has also written an analysis of how these events could further escalate violence in Bahrain. He concludes:

The fear... is precisely that the regime will exploit the violence and tragic deaths to publicly --- and internationally --- justify its current path of repression, rather than reform, evading any accountability and obligations. Equally, regime factions will likely use the conflict to stoke up the loyalist base to ensure that any attempts at dialogue or reconciliation are undermined.

Bahrain Timeline: The Regime's Path of Repression from 23 September to Today
Bahrain Special: Growing Concerns Amid Questions Over Bombs and A Tide of Repression

James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started today.

1354 GMT: Bahrain. King Hamad today visited the Royal Special Forces, in what could be interpreted as a rather symbolic visit, following yesterday's reported bombings and government response. According to Bahrain State media, Hamad met with a number of officers "and issued to them his sound directives and guidance, stressing that BDF is the protective shield of the kingdom and its comprehensive development and progress march in order to ensure more landmark achievements for the citizens".

The King also "urged all sides" to "condemn" yesterdays violence and instructed the Interior Ministry to arrest those who were behind the recent terrorist attacks in Bahrain for premeditated murder".

1330 GMT: Syria. The Syrian National Council has released a budget document, revealing that the new Libyan government provided half of the $40.4m it has amassed since its founding last August. Alongside the $20.3m from Libya, Qatar provided $15m and the United Arab Emirates $5m. The Financial Times reports:

The SNC’s publication of its budget appeared aimed at boosting its credibility by being transparent over its financing. According to the document, the SNC still has about $10.7m in the bank.

The report breaks down expenditures by both category and geography. According to the six-page document, 11 per cent of the money collected has been spent on overheads, with the rest devoted to aiding Syrians inside the country or refugees in neighbouring states.

Roughly 7 per cent of the funds, or about $2.8m, has been allocated to the Free Syrian Army. About $290,000 has been spent on hotels for SNC representatives during travels abroad. The organisation spent about $160,000 on relief efforts for the two mostly ethnic Kurdish provinces of northwest Syria.

1230 GMT: Syria. A meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and former Prime Minister Riad Hijab has yielded little agreement on a political transition.

Hijab, who is likely to be prominent in the restructured opposition leadership being determined this week in Qatar, met Lavrov in the Jordanian capital Amman on Tuesday. Yesterday, the former Prime Minister, who defected in August, spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

After the meeting with Lavrov, Hijab said, "We left the meeting in disagreement. There will be no negotiations while Bashar al-Assad and Syrian officials with blood on their hands are still in power."

1200 GMT: Syria. Activists say the main oil pipeline feeding a refinery on the western side of Homs has been struck overnight during fighting between insurgents and regime forces.

The pipeline links eastern oil fields with the Homs refinery, one of two in the country.

1155 GMT: Iraq. Back from a break for radio and TV work to find that a suicide bomber has killed at least 31 people and injured dozens more.

The bomber rammed his explosive-filled car into soldiers outside an army base in Taji, 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Baghdad.

0725 GMT: Syria. Last month, the Free Syrian Army and Kurdish militias clashed in Aleppo, with more than 30 deaths, and elsewhere in northern Syria. Wladimir van Wilgenburg follows up:

Last week, the Free Syrian Army and the People’s Defence Units (YPG) of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) reached a 10-point agreement to create a joint military committee, release detainees, return confiscated vehicles/weapons, stop propaganda, protect activists, and remove checkpoints. Both sides emphasised that the main enemy is the Assad-government, and the goal is its fall.

There were fears of re-emerging FSA-PYD tensions after reports on Friday that the YPG's female commander Shah Ali Abdo (Nujin Deriki) was killed. Later, however, the FSA told the YPG that the commander was still in their hands, and a journalist of a pro-Kurdish TV-station confirmed he talked with Abdo's friends.

Abdo has not been released, and negotiations continue over confiscated vehicles and weapons. Meanwhile, the Assad-regime shelled Kurdish districts controlled by the PYD on Sunday.

The regime attack brought out the cost of a continued FSA-PYD fight. The PYD controls strategic locations that could block the FSA's supply lines to Aleppo, while the FSA could isolate the PYD’s combatants.

0545 GMT: Syria. The US-backed "Syrian National Initiative" meeting in Qatar will choose an opposition leadership today to replace the Syrian National Council. The plan is for a new executive of representatives from the SNC, other opposition groups, and Kurdish bodies to better represent the forces inside and outside Syria.

So why have I not led with this development? As Jim Muir of the BBC just said, "You cannot believe how irrelevant this all seems, in five-star hotels in Doha, when news comes in hour-by-hour of scores of deaths in Syria."

0515 GMT: Syria. More than 50 regime troops were killed by a suicide car bomb in Hama Province on Monday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Observatory said the bombing in the village of Ziyara was carried out by the Islamist group Jabhat al-Nusra

Another car bomb in Mezzeh in western Damascus wounded at least 11 people, according to Syrian state media. No group has claimed responsibility for the blast. The target was unclear, although senior security and military officers live in the area, and some activists said the bomb was aimed at "shabiha", the armed men who support the regime.

The Observatory also said at least 20 insurgents were killed when the Syrian air force bombarded the town of Haram in Idlib Province.

More than 30 people reportedly died in a strike on the town of Kafranbel. Heavy aerial shelling also continued near Damascus, notably in the area of East Ghouta.

The Local Coordination Committees reported that 162 people were slain by security forces, including 72 in Kafranbel and Idlib Province, 47 in Damascus and its Suburbs, and 17 in Aleppo Province.

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