Syrian Death Toll Climbs; Ships with Weapons Intercepted

Posted April 28th, 2012 at 1:40 pm (UTC-5)
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The Syrian government and opposition activists traded accusations of violence on Saturday, as a handful of U.N. monitors spread out across the country to assess compliance with a fragile cease-fire.

Rights groups say Syrian forces killed at least 10 people during raids in the Damascus area. Activists also say clashes between government and opposition forces erupted in the Latakia region.

The state-run SANA news agency says a military unit confronted an “armed terrorist group” that attempted an “infiltration” from near the Turkish border. Separately, it says armed terrorists attacked and killed three law enforcement officers in the Aleppo region. The news agency says two “terrorists” were killed in the incident.

Russia on Saturday condemned what it called barbaric attacks in Syria and urged forces inside and outside of the country to rebuff what it called “terrorists.” Moscow, a vocal backer of the Syrian government, commented a day after an explosion in Damascus left at least 10 people dead.

The Syrian government says international observers toured the central Hama region on Saturday. Norwegian Major General Robert Mood, the newly appointed leader of the observer mission, is traveling to Damascus.

On Friday, the mission's Colonel, Ahmed Himiche, said the group had reached its goal of preparing for the eventual arrival of 300 monitors.

“We achieved one of our main tasks, which was liaison with the parties in order to prepare and plan for the arrival of 300 monitors that have been mandated by the Security Council. So, this step is a step forward.”

A Syrian government newspaper Saturday criticized U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accusing him of encouraging rebel attacks. The Associated Press says the Tishrin newspaper accused the U.N. chief of heaping his criticism on the government and not on rebel forces.

During a news conference in India Friday, the U.N. chief said he was “gravely alarmed” over Syria's rising death toll in spite of the government's repeated commitments to end violence.

The U.N. estimates that more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria's crackdown on the uprising, while activist groups put the death toll at more than 11,000.

Lebanese officials said Saturday they intercepted a ship that may have been trying to smuggle weapons to the Syrian rebels.

Officials said the Lutfallah II sailed from Libya and stopped in the Egyptian port of Alexandria, before making its way to Tripoli. At least three shipping containers were removed from the ship. Officials said the containers had been loaded with shells, rockets, grenade launchers and other equipment.