Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Assad Proclaims, "We Will Defeat Armed Groups", as His Planes Kill 100s of Civilians
Claimed footage of the petrol station hit by a Syrian warplane on Thursday, killing more than 70 people
1902 GMT: Syria. The inevitable attack on the border crossing at Tal Abyad, north of Al Raqqah, started earlier this morning. Regime tanks and ground forces finally reached the city after having been blocked yesterday.
However, residents in Turkey expressed panicked concern, as the attack was just on the other side of the border:
The sound of explosions caused fear in Akçakale, as Syrian tanks and artillery pounded rebel positions in Tell Abyad. Smoke from the explosions crossed onto the Turkish side of the border as the battle for the town raged on roughly 300 meters from the frontier.
38 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs, including 17 people who were martyred in Buwaida massacre; 15 in Aleppo; 15 in Homs; 13 in Idlib; 8 in Daraa; 7 in Deir Ezzor; 2 in Hama; 1 in Lattakia and 1 in Raqqa,
Al Raqqah, which has not seen as many protests, and has seen a small fraction of the violence, has seen unrest today. Police reportedly used tear gas, and bullets, to disperse a crowd of opposition protesters. An activist shares this video:
1729 GMT: Libya. Al Jazeera no reports that the anti-militia rally in Benghazi has swelled to more than 30,000. Protesters took to the street to condemn the September 11 attack on the US consulate that left 4 Americans dead, and to call on the government to disband militias and form a more centralized national army.
33 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs, including 17 people who were martyred in Buwaida massacre; 13 in Aleppo; 11 in Homs; 6 in Daraa; 6 in Idlib; 5 in Deir Ezzor; 1 in Hama; and 1 in Raqqa.
The death toll, and the numbers of reports of regime shelling and other forms of violence inflicted on the Syrian people, are rising rapidly.
1640 GMT: Yemen. There was more violence today in Yemen, but as McClatchy's Adam Baron suggests, much of the violence in Yemen, just like elsewhere, has more to do with local problems than geopolitics or Youtube videos:
Told 4 dead in clashes between supporters of Islah, houthis erupted after Friday prayers in rayda, Amran (north of Sanaa) #yemen— Adam Baron (@adammbaron) September 21, 2012
Asked (salafi) source if clashes in Amman were more tribal, religious or political in nature. “it’s all basically the same.” #yemen— Adam Baron (@adammbaron) September 21, 2012
many islamists (salafis & ikhwan types) i talk to in #yemen condemn embassy breach w little hesitation. say it was 'ayb (shameful).— Adam Baron (@adammbaron) September 21, 2012
1633 GMT: Bahrain. Police have clashed with anti-government protesters in the capital of Bahrain, Manama, breaking up protests with teargas and batons.
Meanwhile, a Twitter account sends us this video, reportedly showing police beating and arresting unarmed youth in Diraz village:
1613 GMT: Libya. Think anti-American sentiment and protests are the rule in the Middle East and North Africa? Think again. One of the largest single rallies in the Middle East is likely in Benghazi, Libya, and it has a clear PRO-American feel to it. The AP reports that more than 10,000 people have staged a rally in Benghazi to call for the banning of militias, one of the most radical of which was responsible for last week's attack against the US embassy that left 4 Americans dead, including Ambassador Stevens.
The giant march, which filled a major boulevard in the city of 1 million, is part of a new public backlash against militias sparked by last week's attack against the U.S. Consulate here that killed the ambassador and three other Americans. At least one militia is suspected of participating in the attack.
1608 GMT: Pakistan. Eyewitness and citizen reports from Pakistan vary. A source with many contacts in the country suggests that the numbers of casualties in my latest report are far too low:
@jmiller_ea 25 Killed, 73 injured, 1 Church burnt, 6 Cinemas, 2 Petrol Pumps, Police pickets burnt, 3 banks looted so far..!— Shama Junejo (@ShamaJunejo) September 21, 2012
All we can tell is that what's happening in Pakistan appears to be far more widespread than the other protests, riots, and violence than have happened over the last week or so.
1552 GMT: Pakistan. Back from a business break to find the AP is reporting 13 dead and nearly 200 wounded across all of Pakistan in today's riots, including 1 police officer who has been killed and 3 who have been injured.
Al Jazeera has the breakdown of some slightly different math:
- 8 protesters dead, 2 police dead, 30 injured, 6 cinemas torched, 2 banks set alight, 1 KFC in flames, 5 police vehicles burned
- 4 protesters dead, 1 police dead, 40 injured, 2 cinemas torched, 2 shops
- 19 protesters injured 8 police injured, no deaths
- 5 protesters injured, no deaths
1446 GMT: Pakistan. 12-14 people have been killed in Karachi, with 4 others reportedly killed nationwide, as riots spread over recent anti-Islamic cartoons and movies posted by a few individuals in the West. The Guardian shares these videos:
Police firing teargas, and warning shots, at protesters in Karachi:
Rioters attack movie theaters:
Five other members of the National Coordination Body were reportedly detained by Syrian security agents on Monday.
NCB spokesman Khalaf Dahowd said NCB foreign affairs head Abdel Aziz al-Khair and executive committee member Eyas Ayyash arrived in Damascus on Thursday night and were followed by Syrian security agents to their car where they joined NCB member Maher Tahan.
Other news stories were not as certain that the missing politicians were detained by the government. To our knowledge, there has been no official statement from the regime.
"Continuing the Iraqi government policy to investigate the passing of weapons to Syria through Iraqi land and air space, the Iraqi authorities prevented a North Korean plane from going to Syria, after they suspected that the plane was shipping weapons," Ali al-Mossawi, media advisor to the Iraq's prime minister, told Reuters.
Moussawi said the scheduled plane's itinerary, from North Korea to Syria, was what had aroused suspicions but that there had been no contact between the Iraqi government and North Korea on the issue.
In recent weeks the US has accused Iran of smuggling weapons to the Assad regime via Iraqi airspace, charges that Iraq has denied.
1412 GMT: Syria. Mosques are often the cites of violence, and throughout the last 18+ months have often been targeted by Assad forces, particularly on Fridays, as protests typically originate inside mosques right after prayer time, and the loudspeakers of the mosques often call the worshipers to protest.
The LCC posts this footage of the mosque in the Bab al Nasr district of Aleppo (EA can confirm the location, as it is clear from the map). The building was reportedly "shelled" earlier today, likely from tanks or mortars.
Earlier, this demonstration was filmed on Bab road, potentially originating from that mosque:
An activist shares another video, originally hosted by the "Union of Aleppo," claiming to show military (working side by side with plain-clothed shabiha) surrounding, and ultimately attacking, a mosque in (we believe) Al Bab, in the Aleppo countryside (map):
What's interesting is that it appears a soldier is initially filming, but then he swaps a weapon for his camera with a member of the shabiha. Soon after, the minaret appears to be shot, perhaps by one of the vehicle-mounted machineguns trying to knock out the loudspeakers.
25 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs, including 17 people who were martyred in Buwaida massacre; 8 in Homs; 7 in Aleppo,2 in Daraa; 1 in Hama; 1in Idlib; and 1 in Deir Ezzor.
Though this number is lower than yesterday's pace, if trends in recent weeks are predictive, the number of casualties today is once again on track to surpass the 100 mark.
Yesterday, Al Raqqah and Aleppo accounted for large amounts of the fatalities, where as today those numbers are lower, so far, but the numbers of dead in Damascus are much higher.
Yesterday, a helicopter was apparently shot down over Douma, a major suburb east of Damascus. This could be the start of a serious reprisal campaign by pro-Assaad elements.
1306 GMT: Syria. Every Friday has a theme, one agreed upon by activists inside and outside of Syria who vote on some of the leading opposition organizations' Facebook pages. "The 47th," a prominent Twitter activist, provides us with this translation and interpretation of today's theme:
"The people loved by the messengers [of Allah] are being slaughtered," In [reference] to how the people (whom the prophet loves) are being killed [by the regime]. A sad, and desperate appeal for Muslims worldwide to show outrage with Syria. Even if 1 tenth of [the outrage that they've shown] for the cartoon.
Below are a few videos of the largest protests, though we're collecting others in a separate video gallery:
A massive protest in Ma'arrat al Nouman, Idlib province:
The famous Kafranbel, Idlib Province. It's hard to make out the sign, but it appears to speak about the "echoes of a careless world," apparently a reference to the fact that there is outrage elsewhere in the Arab world about a few Youtube videos and cartoons, but perceived silence over the horrors in Syria:
See even more videos in our separate video gallery.
1246 GMT: Syria. James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started.
We catch up by starting with a video, shared with me by a Twitter user, showing that the regime's airstrikes against Aleppo have not slowed this morning:
The detainees are members of Al Islah, a movement tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is illegal in the UAE. An official claimed they have confessed to their plans and intention to establish an Islamist government.
The regime has been accused of trying to suppress dissent through mass detention of both secular and religious activists.
The inquiry, which following a Committee report on the Arab Spring, will investigate how the UK balances its interests in defence, trade, and security with that of human rights.
The NGO said several officers from the village of Mit Ghamr in Daqahliyah Province were involved. It claimed it has "collected evidence including medical certificates, photographs and videos" to back its accusations.
The group said the incident occurred when police raided cafes in the village, beating people and breaking furniture. Village residents protested outside the police station and one of them, Atef al-Menassi, went to the police to file a complaint against an officer.
"He was then attacked by the officers and policemen with rife butts and tortured," the rights group said. "They did the same thing with another resident, Mustafa Mohammed Mustafa, who accompanied Atef."
Later "the two men were released, but Atef was unconscious and he died on the way to hospital," the NGO asserted.
Clashes erupted after the death, with residets throwing rocks at police who first fired in the air and later at demonstrators, killing Mohammed Abdel Abdellatiff "in cold blood" and seriously wounding another in the head.
0535 GMT: Bahrain. Maryam Alkhawaja of the Bahrain Center of Human Rights (left) stands with the award given to her father and sister --- detained human rights activist Abdulhadi and fellow activist Zainab --- by the US organisation. In her speech, Maryam read a letter from Zainab: "We suffer on the path to freedom, so that someday we can live without suffering, with our rights and dignity."
0515 GMT: Syria. In an interview with the Egyptian weekly magazine al-Ahram al-Araby, President Assad has declared, "The armed groups exercise terrorism against the state. They are not popular within society ... they will not be victorious in the end."
Extracts of Assad's comments, to be published today, emerged amid claims that 250 people were killed on Thursday, many of them from airstrikes in Aleppo, Al Raqqah, Homs, and parts of Damascus. In Al Raqqah, more than 70 people reportedly died when a MiG-23 jet fighter hit a petrol station. The incident occurred after Free Syrian Army soldiers prevented a tank convoy from reaching the Tal Abyad border crossing with Turkey.
In Aleppo, where fighting is entering its third month, the airstrikes including "barrel bombs" and strafing runs, wreaking havoc on Syria's largest city and nearby towns.
Assad also declared that "change cannot be achieved through foreign intervention" and continued: "Both sides of the equation are equal and political dialogue is the only solution. Violence, however, is not allowed ...and the state will not stand with its hands tied in the face of those who bear arms against it."