- - Sunday, December 18, 2011


Troops kill 14 civilians in anti-government protests

BEIRUT — Armed clashes erupted in Syria Sunday, killing at least 14 civilians and six government troops in central and northern Syria, activists said in the latest sign that the nation’s uprising may be deteriorating into civil war.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an army officer was among the six soldiers killed in the town of Qusair in Homs province, near the border with Lebanon.

Heavy gun battles were also reported Sunday in several villages in the restive Jabal al-Zawiya region in the northern Idlib province near the Turkish border, where many defectors are believed to be operating.

The Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees of Syria activist network said at least 14 civilians were killed in clashes and shootings by security forces toward civilian areas in the Homs region, as well as the Jabal al-Zawiya area and the town of Maaret al-Numan in the north.

Syria has seen a sharp escalation in armed clashes recently, raising concerns the country of 22 million is slipping toward civil war nine months into the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.


Islamists demand cutting ties with United States

ISLAMABAD — More than 30,000 Islamists rallied against the United States in the Pakistani city of Lahore on Sunday, demanding Islamabad cut off ties with Washington following NATO airstrikes last month that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

The protest highlighted the ability of hard-liners to bring their supporters into the streets, as well as the lasting anger over the Nov. 26 attack, which has complicated U.S. efforts to enlist Pakistan’s cooperation on the Afghan war.

Washington has expressed condolences for the NATO airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at two army posts along the Afghan border and has promised to carry out an investigation.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa is widely considered to be the front group for Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist organization that was started with help from the Pakistani government to fight archenemy India.

Lashkar-e-Taiba is blamed for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people.


Military rulers isolate pro-democracy activists

CAIRO — Egypt’s military sought to isolate activists protesting army rule, depicting the demonstrators as conspirators and vandals, as troops and protesters clashed for a third straight day, pelting each other with stones near parliament in the heart of the capital.

At least 10 protesters have been killed and 441 others wounded in the three days of violence, according to the Health Ministry. Activists say most of the 10 fatalities died of gunshot wounds.

The fighting, sparked when troops sought to break up a sit-in outside the Cabinet headquarters, has seen a particularly heavy hand by the military.

Military police have been shown in video footage dragging women by the hair, even stripping the shirt off one veiled woman, and ferociously beating, kicking and stomping on protesters cowering on the ground.


Police open fire on rioters, killing one

SHETPE — Police opened fire on rioters in a town in the tense southwest of Kazakhstan, leaving one person dead and 11 wounded, authorities said Sunday.

The prosecutor-general’s office said the violence occurred Saturday in the town of Shetpe, in the same region as the city of Zhanaozen where 13 people died in a clash with police on Friday.

Zhanaozen has been the site of a sit-in by oil workers seeking higher wages. Many of those workers were fired over the summer.


Loser claims victory in presidential election

KINSHASA — Congo’s opposition leader Sunday declared himself the winner of the presidential vote, despite placing second in official election results

Etienne Tshisekedi told reporter that incumbent President Joseph Kabila’s government “is dismissed starting today.” Sunday’s declaration comes only two days after the country’s supreme court upheld Mr. Kabila’s victory in the November vote.

International observers, however, have expressed concerns about irregularities, saying voter turnout was impossibly high in some districts.

Tshisekedi urged his supporters Sunday to remain calm, so as not to frighten foreign investment in the mineral-rich nation.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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