Bloomberg News

Syria Kills 10 as Opposition Forms Council to Topple Assad

October 03, 2011

(Updates with details on deaths in fifth paragraph.)

Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Syrian forces killed at least 10 protesters yesterday as activists formed a council to coordinate efforts to end President Bashar al-Assad’s rule and stop a crackdown that has claimed more than 3,600 lives.

The Syrian National Council will include the head of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic political party banned in the country, as well as Kurdish and other groups, Burhan Ghalioun, a political sociologist at Paris’s Sorbonne University and member of the council, told reporters in Istanbul yesterday. Assad’s crackdown on dissenters threatens the country with civil war, he said.

“The council is a big step, and I think it will indeed help with getting international support,” said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and author of the book “In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington’s Battle with Syria.” “It organizes the opposition more comprehensively and beyond previous groups gathered around core principles. It’s a transitional council in all but name really.’ ‘

Syria’s opposition is following the path taken by Libya’s rebels, who formed a National Transitional Council during that nation’s uprising. The NTC became the main governing authority in Libya in late August after rebels seized Tripoli, the capital, and ended the four-decade rule of Muammar Qaddafi. The Libyan and Syrian revolts were inspired by a wave of unrest that ousted Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January and Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak the following month.

Syrian Cohesion Lacking

The killings yesterday occurred in the central governorate of Homs, the northern province of Idlib and the southern area of Daraa, where the uprising against Assad began in March, Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said by phone today. Government agents carried out raids on homes overnight and into the early morning, arresting many in the suburbs of the capital Damascus, he said.

Fadi Hakura, an analyst at Chatham House research institute in London, said the Syrian alliance may be fragile. “The so- called opposition council has been created outside Syrian territory, there doesn’t seem to be much close cooperation with the protesters on the ground in Syria, and there aren’t any clear responsibilities,” Hakura said in a phone interview from New York. “The Libyan transitional council was a cohesive unit with clear objectives and you don’t see that with the Syrians.”

Join the Council

“The council is not representative of all Syrians and one could say this is an attempt to capitalize and manipulate the feelings of those inside Syria who are against the regime,” Merhi said.

Ghalioun invited other groups to join the council and said Assad’s crackdown threatens Syria with civil war.

The Syrian protests are part of the wave of unrest across the Middle East and North Africa that unseated governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Assad’s crackdown has left more than 3,600 civilians dead since the unrest began in March, according to Ammar Qurabi of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria. About 30,000 people have been detained and 13,000 are still being held, according to Qurabi and Merhi.

There have been intensive clashes in the past week between state forces and soldiers who have defected, mainly in the central governorate of Homs, according to activists as well as witnesses and protesters interviewed by Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera news networks.

The defectors have left Rastan, near Homs, where the clashes occurred, and the Syrian army is now in control of the area, Merhi said.

--With assistance from Robert Tuttle and Chris Stephen in Tripoli and Zaid Sabah and Vincent Del Giudice in Washington. Editors: Andrew J. Barden, Jennifer Freedman, Louis Meixler.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emre Peker in Ankara at epeker2@bloomberg.net; Massoud A. Derhally in Beirut, Lebanon at mderhally@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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