Syrian opposition calls on Hezbollah to stay out

April 21, 2013
SYRIA
Opposition calls on Hezbollah to stay out

The Syrian opposition called on Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters from the country, as activists said government troops supported by gunmen linked to the Lebanese Shiite militant group battled rebels Sunday for control of villages near the ­Lebanon-Syria border.

Outside the Syrian capital, ­Damascus, activists said they had documented the names of 80 people killed in a government assault on the area over the past five days.

The Syrian Opposition Coalition — the main Western-backed opposition group — warned that Hezbollah involvement in Syria’s civil war could lead to greater risks in the area and urged the Lebanese government to “adopt the necessary measures to stop the aggression of Hezbollah” and to control the border to “protect civilians in the area.”

The statement, posted on the coalition’s Facebook page, coincided with a surge in fighting around the contested town of Qusair in Syria’s Homs province near the frontier with Lebanon.

Over the past two weeks, the Syrian military, supported by a Hezbollah-backed militia, has pushed to regain control of the border area.

The pro-regime fighters are members of the Popular Committees, which were set up last year in Syria with Hezbollah’s backing to protect Syrian villages inhabited by Lebanese Shiites. Rebels accuse the militia of attacking opposition villages in the area and fighting alongside government forces.

— Associated Press

AFGHANISTAN
Taliban attacks kill 9 at checkpoint, bazaar

Insurgents killed six police officers at a checkpoint and a suicide bomber killed three civilians at a shopping bazaar in attacks Sunday in eastern Afghanistan, while an independent security group warned that 2013 is on track to be one of the most violent years of the war.

The Taliban ambushed the checkpoint in the Dayak district of Ghazni province, killing six police officers, wounding one and leaving one missing, said Col. Mohammad Hussain, deputy provincial police chief. The checkpoint was manned by members of the Afghan Local Police, forces recruited at the village level and nominally under the control of the Afghan Interior Ministry.

On Friday, insurgents attacked a police checkpoint in Andar, a district of Ghazni province that neighbors Dayak. They killed 13 officers, according to Siddiq Siddiqi, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

The second attack Sunday occurred in Paktika province, which borders Ghazni. A suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a bazaar around midday, killing three people and wounding five civilians and two police officers, said Mokhlis Afghan, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

In other violence, the Taliban cut a hand and foot off each of two villagers accused of helping escort coalition convoys, according to a spokesman for the provincial chief in western Herat province.

— Associated Press

IRAQ
Irregularities alleged in provincial vote

Iraqi election monitors on Sunday reported multiple irregularities in the country’s first provincial vote since U.S. troops left in late 2011, but they were unclear about whether results would be affected.

In an initial report, two nongovernmental organizations, Shams and Tamoz, said that more than 300 irregularities had been recorded by the 7,000 monitors they had sent across Iraq to cover Saturday’s polls.

The vote was a key test of Iraq’s short experience with democratic elections because it was the first one conducted since the U.S. withdrawal. Allegations of vote fixing are not uncommon after elections in the country.

In one instance, Hoger Jato of Shams said, some members of the security forces had helped specific campaigns while on duty, with some advising voters at polling centers on whom to cast their ballots for. Elsewhere, electoral commission employees reportedly failed to check the identities of voters, allowing them to cast ballots on behalf of others.

On Sunday evening, a bomb went off in a popular kebab shop in Fallujah, killing eight people and wounding 25, according to police and hospital officials.

— Associated Press

China quake toll climbs: Rescuers struggled to reach a remote, rural corner of southwestern China on Sunday as the toll of the dead and missing from the country’s worst earthquake in three years climbed to 208 with almost 1,000 serious injuries. The 6.6 magnitude quake struck in Lushan county, near the city of Ya’an in the southwestern province of Sichuan, close to where a devastating 7.9 quake hit in May 2008, killing 70,000.

Egypt’s justice minister resigns: Egypt’s justice minister submitted his resignation Sunday, a cabinet spokesman said, in a move that signaled strong disapproval of the president’s handling of a prolonged showdown with the judiciary. The letter of resignation surfaced publicly a day after President Mohamed Morsi said he would reshuffle the cabinet, amid calls by both his opponents and supporters for Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki to step down.

— From news services

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