Turkish Bus Attacked in Syria, 2 Wounded

Posted November 21st, 2011 at 9:15 am (UTC-5)
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Gunmen in northern Syria opened fire Monday on a convoy of buses carrying Turkish pilgrims back from the Hajj in Saudi Arabia, wounding two people.

Turkish media say the buses were attacked after they asked for directions at a checkpoint. The convoy later crossed into Turkey where the wounded were treated at a hospital near the border. The gunmen's affiliation was not clear.

Turkey's foreign ministry confirmed that an attack took place in Syria, but did not elaborate.

The incidents came as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that his days are numbered and that he cannot stay in power indefinitely using military force. Ankara and Damascus have become increasingly hostile since Mr. Assad unleashed a deadly crackdown on opposition protesters.

Also Monday, Russia accused Western nations of undermining the chances for a peaceful resolution of the Syrian crisis by urging Mr. Assad's opponents not to seek compromise with the government. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeated Moscow's position that the Syrian opposition share responsibility for the violence and should face international pressure to enter talks.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague is scheduled to meet Monday with Syrian rebel leaders in London.

The commander of a group of Syrian army defectors retracted earlier claims that his followers launched an unprecedented attack inside Damascus.

A Turkey-based air force colonel who heads the Free Syrian Army, Riad al-Asaad, said in a video posted on the group's Facebook page that Mr. Assad's government is attempting to tarnish the image of the revolution. But he did not attempt to clarify why his group had alternately claimed and disputed responsibility for Sunday's attack on a ruling Baath Party building in Damascus.

Syrian activists said several rocket-propelled grenades hit the building, and witnesses reported numerous explosions in the city center. There was no apparent damage or injuries.

The Arab League Sunday rejected a Syrian request to amend a plan that would end the country's deepening crisis. Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said the plan “compromised the country's sovereignty, but that Damascus had not rejected the mission.” The 22-member Arab League will meet again Thursday to discuss the Syrian crisis.

Damascus has been facing mounting international pressure to end the unrest. The United Nations says the crackdown has resulted in more than 3,500 deaths.