Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

October 15, 2013

Gunmen in Syria release 4 aid workers, hold 3

BEIRUT — Gunmen in Syria released three Red Cross staffers and a Red Crescent volunteer who had been kidnapped in rebel-held territory, the international agency said Monday.

The fate of three other Red Cross workers who were also seized Sunday in the northwestern Idlib province remained unclear, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

Syrian opposition activists said the seven aid workers were taken at a rebel checkpoint outside the town of Saraqeb, manned by an al-Qaida-affiliate, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. There was no claim of responsibility.

About two dozen miles away, near Turkey, a car bomb went off in the market of the town of Darkoush on Monday, while it was crowded with people shopping for the four-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha holiday. The blast set cars on fire and sent people running.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 27 people were killed, while another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, put the death toll at 15.

It was not clear who carried out the bombing and why they attacked a civilian target in a rebel-held area. Syria’s conflict has seen an increasing use of car bombings, but most have been carried out against regime targets, usually by jihadi fighters among rebels.

Meanwhile, Syria became a full member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Monday, in another step toward eliminating its chemical weapons stockpile by mid-2014.

The mission is overseen by the OPCW and the United Nations. The joint team has inspected five of at least 20 sites in the past two weeks, according to the OPCW chief.

Ahmet Uzumcu signaled that the team of 60 OPCW inspectors and U.N. staff is encountering difficulties. He was quoted as saying that one abandoned site was in rebel-held territory and that in other cases, routes went through opposition-controlled areas, preventing access because rebels have not promised cooperation.

“They (the areas) change hands from one day to another, which is why we appeal to all sides in Syria to support this mission, to be cooperative and not render this mission more difficult. It’s already challenging,” he told the BBC.

The OPCW won the Nobel Peace Prize last week, in a strong endorsement of its Syria mission.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, selected Sigrid Kaag, a Middle East expert from the Netherlands, to head the joint OPCW-U.N. team in Syria, U.N. diplomats said. Kaag is an assistant administrator of the U.N. Development Program and speaks Arabic, said the diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a public announcement.

The push to eliminate Syria’s stockpile of about 1,000 metric tons of blistering and nerve agents stems from an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on opposition-held suburbs of Damascus. Hundreds were killed, including many children. The West says the Syrian government was responsible, while Damascus blames the rebels.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said Monday that his country stopped manufacturing chemical agents in 1997 because they became an “outdated deterrent.” He said Syria has since concentrated on its missile capabilities.

Damascus is believed to have thousands of long-range missiles that can reach targets almost anywhere inside Israel, its archenemy.

“Developing Syria’s missile deterrent force that can be used from the first moments of war ended the necessity of chemical weapons,” Assad was quoted as saying in the Lebanese Al-Akbar newspaper.

Nonetheless, Assad said, Syria is suffering a “moral and political loss” in handing over its chemical weapons.

Asked about the OPCW’s Nobel prize, Assad attempted an apparent joke, saying, “this prize should have been mine.”

More than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since the Syria conflict erupted in March 2011, with a popular uprising that escalated into a civil war. The country has turned into a patchwork of regime- and rebel-held areas. Assad’s political opponents are divided, while Islamic extremists have emerged as dominant in many rebel areas.

Despite the fractured nature of the opposition, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said talks on a political transition must begin by mid-November, as envisioned by the U.N.

Kerry said Syria urgently needs a transitional government, but that Assad “has lost the legitimacy to be able to be a cohesive force that could bring people together.”

It’s uncertain if the Syrian political opposition will attend.

Opposition figure George Sabra said a final decision of the Syrian National Council, the main Western-backed umbrella group, is expected at a conference starting Oct. 24. Sabra’s group, the largest in the council, won’t attend transition talks, he said.

The opposition wants Assad to step down first. It has also expressed anger over the chemical weapons deal, in which the regime is treated as a partner. “Unfortunately, they let the criminal escape from punishment,” Sabra said.

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Johnson family files second suit against school system

    Two months after filing a civil suit against Lowndes County Schools, Kendrick Johnson's parents have filed a second suit against the school system which again claims that negligence and bullying led to their son’s death.

    July 29, 2014

  • Bears spotted on Baytree Road

    A pair of bear sightings along Baytree Road could indicate a growing black bear population in Lowndes County.

    July 29, 2014

  • photo.JPG Dump truck suspects apprehended

    LCSO has apprehended both of the suspects believed to be connected with the theft of a dump truck in Macon on Monday.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dollar Tree-Family Do_Rich copy.jpg Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar

    The fight for penny pinchers is intensifying.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Mideast Israe_Rich copy.jpg Gaza war rages despite Hamas, Israel truce pledges

    Israel and Hamas launched new attacks Sunday in the raging Gaza war, despite going back and forth over proposals for a temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday.
    The failure to reach even a brief humanitarian lull in the fighting illustrated the difficulties in securing a more permanent truce as the sides remain far apart on their terms.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ga. woman sentenced in child abuse case

    The mother of a 1-year-old boy who was hospitalized with a fractured skull in 2012 has been sentenced to nine years in prison.

    July 29, 2014

  • AP81072904918 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • United Way presents fundraising prom

    Save the date — and make sure to find one — for The Prom, a retro-celebration to benefit the Greater Valdosta United Way.

    July 29, 2014

  • Times hosts blood drive

    The Valdosta Daily Times will participate in a blood drive, 12:30-5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1, with the American Red Cross Bloodmobile visiting The Times’ 201 N. Troup St. parking lot.

    July 29, 2014

  • Free health fair planned for Quitman on Aug. 9

    A free health fair hosted by the 100 Black Men of Brooks-Grady-and-Thomas Counties, Inc. and sponsored by Archbold Hospital will take place Aug. 9  from 8 a.m.-noon. The second annual 100 B-G-T Health Fair will be located at the Courtland Avenue Church of Christ in Quitman. All Valdosta-Lowndes County residents are welcome to attend.

    July 29, 2014

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results