Tag Archive: AMMAN


Gaddafi’s death – who pulled the trigger?

SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) – Disturbing images of a blood-stained and shaken Muammar Gaddafi being jostled by angry fighters quickly circulated around the world after the Libyan dictator’s dramatic death near his home town of Sirte.

The exact circumstances of his demise are still unclear with conflicting accounts of his death circulating. But the footage, possibly of the last chaotic moments of Gaddafi’s life, offered some clues into what happened.

Gaddafi was still alive when he was captured near Sirte. In the video, filmed by a bystander in the crowd and later aired on television around the world, Gaddafi is shown being dragged off a vehicle’s bonnet and pulled to the ground by his hair.

“Keep him alive, keep him alive!” someone shouts. Gunshots then ring out. The camera veers off.

“They captured him alive and while he was being taken away, they beat him and then they killed him,” one senior source in the NTC told Reuters. “He might have been resisting.”

In what appeared to contradict the events depicted in the video, Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council said Gaddafi was killed when a gunfight broke out after his capture between his supporters and government fighters. He died from a bullet wound to the head.

It said no order had been given to kill him.

Gaddafi called the rebels who rose up against his 42-years of one-man rule “rats,” but in the end it was he who was captured cowering in a drainage pipe full of rubbish and filth.

“He called us rats, but look where we found him,” said Ahmed Al Sahati, a 27-year-old government fighter, standing next to two stinking drainage pipes under a six-lane highway near Sirte.

On the ground, government fighters and the scenes of sheer carnage nearby told the story of the dictator’s final hours.

Shortly before dawn prayers on Thursday, Gaddafi, surrounded by a few dozen loyal bodyguards and accompanied by the head of his now non-existent army Abu Bakr Younis Jabr, broke out of the two-month siege of Sirte and made a break for the west.

But they did not get far.

France said its aircraft struck military vehicles belonging to Gaddafi forces near Sirte at about 8:30 a.m. (0630 GMT) on Thursday, but said it was unsure whether the strikes had killed Gaddafi.

Some two miles west of Sirte, 15 pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns lay burned out, smashed and smoldering next to an electricity sub station some 20 meters from the main road.

They had clearly been hit by a force far beyond anything the motley army the former rebels has assembled during eight months of revolt to overthrow the once feared leader.

But there was no bomb crater, indicating the strike may have been carried out by a helicopter gunship, or that it had been strafed by a fighter jet.

“MY MASTER IS HERE”

Inside the trucks still in their seats sat the charred skeletal remains of drivers and passengers killed instantly by the strike. Other bodies lay mutilated and contorted strewn across the grass. Some 50 bodies in all.

Gaddafi himself and a handful of his men escaped death and appeared to have run through a stand of trees toward the main road and hid in the two drainage pipes.

But a group of government fighters were on their tail.

“At first we fired at them with anti-aircraft guns, but it was no use,” said Salem Bakeer, while being feted by his comrades near the road. “Then we went in on foot.

“One of Gaddafi’s men came out waving his rifle in the air and shouting surrender, but as soon as he saw my face he started shooting at me,” he told Reuters.

“Then I think Gaddafi must have told them to stop. ‘My master is here, my master is here’, he said, ‘Muammar Gaddafi is here and he is wounded’,” said Bakeer.

“We went in and brought Gaddafi out. He was saying ‘what’s wrong? What’s wrong? What’s going on?’. Then we took him and put him in the car,” Bakeer said.

At the time of capture, Gaddafi was already wounded with gunshots to his leg and to his back, Bakeer said.

Other government fighters who said they took part in Gaddafi’s capture, separately confirmed Bakeer’s version of events, though one said the man who ruled Libya for 42 years was shot and wounded at the last minute by one of his own men.

“One of Muammar Gaddafi’s guards shot him in the chest,” said Omran Jouma Shawan.

Another of the fighters who said he took part in the capture toted a heavily engraved a golden pistol he said he took from Gaddafi as he was hoisted on the shoulders of his comrades.

Army chief Jabr was also captured alive, Bakeer said. NTC officials later announced he was dead.

Fallen electricity cables partially covered the entrance to the pipes and the bodies of three men, apparently Gaddafi bodyguards lay at the entrance to one end, one in shorts probably due to a bandaged wound on his leg.

Four more bodies lay at the other end of the pipes. All black men, one had his brains blown out, another man had been decapitated, his dreadlocked head lying beside his torso.

Joyous government fighters fired their weapons in the air, shouted “Allahu Akbar” and posed for pictures. Others wrote graffiti on the concrete parapets of the highway.

“Gaddafi was captured here,” said one simply.

“THEY BEAT HIM, THEN THEY KILLED HIM”

From there Gaddafi was taken to Sirte where he and his dwindling band of die-hard supporters had made a last stand under a rain of missile and artillery fire in a desperate two-month siege.

Video footage showed Gaddafi, dazed and wounded, but still clearly alive and as he was dragged from the front of a pick-up truck by a crowd of angry jostling government soldiers who hit him and pulled his hair to drag him to the ground.

He then appeared to fall to the ground and was enveloped by the crowd. NTC officials later announced Gaddafi had died of his wounds after capture.

Someone in the crowd shouted “keep him alive, keep him alive,” but another fighter cried out in a high pitched crazed scream. Gaddafi then goes out of view and gunshots are heard.

Further television footage showed what appeared to be Gaddafi’s lifeless body being loaded into an ambulance in Sirte.

An NTC spokesman in Benghazi, Jalal al-Galal, said a doctor who examined Gaddafi when he arrived in Misrata found he had been shot in the head and abdomen.

(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal in Sirte and Samia Nakhoul in Amman; Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Maria Golovnina)

A demonstrator carries a banner during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad at the courtyard of Fatih mosque in IstanbulDemonstrators march through the streets after Friday prayers in the Hajar Al Asswad in Damascushttp://beta.news.yahoo.com/syria-activists-meet-call-change-avert-crisis-123229039.html

AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian activists called on Monday for sweeping political changes that could end 41 years of Assad family rule in a rare meeting in Damascus allowed by the authorities under pressure from a three-month popular uprising.

“The solution to this crisis has to address its root causes. This regime must be toppled and replaced with a democratic system,” said leading Syrian writer Michel Kilo, who spent three years as a political prisoner.

The meeting at a Damascus hotel includes noted critics of President Bashar al-Assad who are respected in opposition circles, as well as some supporters of Assad.

Organizers said the gathering had approval from a senior aide to Assad, who has sent troops to crush protests across the country while promising dialogue in an effort to contain an uprising for political freedoms that has posed the gravest threat to his rule since he succeeded his father 11 years ago.

Other speakers in the conference, attended by 150 people in a Damascus hotel, adopted a softer tone but said demands of street protesters after decades of autocratic rule must be met.

Syrian writer Louay Hussein, who was also a political prisoner, said repression in the last four decades have undermined Syria as a whole while emphasizing that peaceful means must be found to meet popular demands.

Hussein said the meeting would try to explore “ending the state of dictatorship, and a peaceful and safe transition into a desired country, one of freedom, justice and equality.”

Monther Khaddam, an academic from the coastal city of Latakia, said a wider national dialogue is needed but that intellectuals were “behind street demands until the end.”

Organizers of Monday’s conference described it as a platform for independent figures searching for a way out of the violence

Main opposition figures had said the meeting could give political cover to Assad, with human rights groups saying that security forces have killed over 1,300 civilians and imprisoned 12,000 since the uprising began in southern Syria.

Economist Aref Dalila, a major figure behind the gathering, pulled out at the last minute, saying that he did not want to participate in a conference that could be used by the authorities while mass killing and arrests continue.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis)

Baathists quit over Syria’s Deraa crackdown

Protesters are seen holding placards during a demonstration in Douma townhttp://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110427/wl_nm/us_syria

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis Khaled Yacoub Oweis 23 mins ago

AMMAN (Reuters) – More than 200 members of Syria’s ruling Baath Party quit on Wednesday over President Bashar al-Assad’s violent repression of pro-democracy protests, the first public sign of serious dissent within the governing ranks.

Resigning from the autocratic Baath Party, which has ruled Syria since taking power in a 1963 coup, was unthinkable before pro-democracy protests erupted in the southern city of Deraa on March 18.

A rights group said the violence had killed more than 450 people and international criticism sharpened after 100 people were killed on Friday and security forces began an attack on the southern city of Deraa on Monday.

Two hundred party members from Deraa province and surrounding regions said they had resigned in protest against the attack, in which security forces killed at least 35 people.

“In view of the negative stance taken by the leadership of the Arab Socialist Baath Party toward the events in Syria and in Deraa, and after the death of hundreds and the wounding of thousands at the hands of the various security forces, we submit our collective resignation,” they said in a declaration.

Another 28 Baathists in the restive coastal city of Banias also resigned on Wednesday in protest at the “practices of the security forces against honorable citizens… and torture and murder they committed.”

Analysts say the demonstrations that have spread across Syria have grown in intensity, with protestors who began calling for reform of the system now demanding its overthrow.

Bashir’s attempts to appease discontent by lifting emergency law, while keeping draconian powers of the secret police and the Baath Party’s monopoly on power, have not stopped protests.

Security forces earlier on Wednesday surrounded Banias, while tanks patrolled Deraa and troops moved into the Damascus suburb of Douma, another seat of anti-government protests.

Assad’s decision to storm Deraa echoed his father’s 1982 suppression of Islamists in Hama and drew threats of sanctions from western powers.

Germany said it strongly supported EU sanctions against the Syrian leadership, and the bloc’s executive body, the European Commission, said all options were on the table for punitive measures against Damascus.

France summoned Syria’s ambassador to protest at the violence and said Britain, Spain, Germany and Italy were doing the same. “Syrian authorities must meet the legitimate demands of their people with reforms, and not through the use of force,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.

The United States, which imposed a limited economic embargo against Syria in 2004, says it is considering further targeted sanctions in response to the “abhorrent and deplorable” violence by security forces deployed in the crackdown on protesters.

Amnesty International has urged the U.N. Security Council to refer Syria to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, impose an arms embargo and freeze assets belonging to Assad and others involved in serious human rights abuses.

DEATH TOLL

A witness told Reuters that a convoy of at least 30 army tanks headed early on Wednesday from southwest of Damascus, near the Golan Heights front line with Israel, in a direction which could take them either to Douma or to Deraa.

Overnight, white buses had brought hundreds of soldiers in full combat gear into Douma, from where protesters have tried to march into the center of the capital in the last two weeks, only to be stopped by bullets.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had names of at least 453 civilians killed during the protests across the country against Assad’s 11-year authoritarian rule.

Syria has been dominated by the Assad family since Bashar’s father, the late President Hafez al-Assad, took power in a 1970 coup. The younger Assad kept intact the autocratic political system he inherited in 2000 while the family expanded its control over the country’s struggling economy.

The unrest could have serious regional repercussions because Syria straddles the fault lines of Middle East conflict.

Assad has strengthened Syria’s ties with Shi’ite Iran, and both countries back the Hezbollah and Hamas militant groups, although Damascus still seeks peace with Israel. Syria and Israel are technically at war but the Golan frontier between them has been quiet since a 1974 ceasefire.

BODY “RUN OVER BY TANK”

A resident in Deraa, where electricity, water and phone lines were cut when the army rolled in at dawn on Monday, said fresh food was running out and grocery stores were giving away their produce. “It’s mostly tinned food they are distributing to us,” he said by telephone.

A relative said his neighbor saw a tank driving over the body of a young man in the main Tishrin square on Tuesday.

“They are telling us: ‘You have to accept us and we will remain forever your rulers, whether you like it or not. And if you resist us, this is your fate’,” he said.

He said the army push into Deraa was also a warning to other cities of what they could expect if protests continued. “But God willing, we are steadfast and this only strengthens our resolve to get rid of them — not tomorrow, today,” he added.

Diplomats said the unit Assad sent into Deraa on Monday was the ultra-loyal Fourth Mechanised Division, commanded by his brother Maher. Reports from opposition figures and some Deraa residents, which could not be confirmed, said that some soldiers from another unit had refused to fire on civilians.

Syria has blamed armed groups for the violence. Protesters say their rallies have been peaceful and security forces have opened fire on unarmed demonstrators.

Assad, a member of Syria’s Alawite minority, nevertheless retains some support, especially among co-religionists who dominate the army and secret police and could lose preferential treatment if majority Sunni Syria was to transform into a democracy.

An alliance between the ruling minority and the Sunni merchant class, forged by the elder Assad through a blend of coercion and the granting of privileges, still holds, robbing protesters of financial backing and a foothold in the old bazaars of Damascus and Aleppo, Syria’s second city.

(Additional reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman; writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Jon Boyle)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110427/wl_nm/us_syria_baath

AMMAN (Reuters) – Two hundred members of Syria’s ruling Baath Party from the province of Deraa and surrounding regions resigned on Wednesday in protest against an attack by security forces on the southern city.

Resigning from the Baath Party, which has ruled Syria since taking power in a 1963 coup, was unthinkable before pro-democracy protests erupted in Deraa on March 18.

“In view of the negative stance taken by the leadership of the Arab Socialist Baath Party toward the events in Syria and in Deraa, and after the death of hundreds and the wounding of thousands at the hands of the various security forces, we submit our collective resignation,” said a declaration signed by the Deraa officials.

A separate declaration sent to Reuters said a further 28 Baathists in the restive coastal city of Banias also resigned on Wednesday to protest the “practices of the security forces against honorable citizens… and torture and murder they committed.”

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Maria Golovnina)

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