7 Killed in Syria as More UN Observers Arrive

Posted May 12th, 2012 at 5:30 pm (UTC-5)
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At least seven people were killed in anti-government-related unrest across Syria Saturday, as more United Nations observers arrived in the country.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government shelling and security force raids left at least three civilians dead, while the government said four security force members were killed near the capital, Damascus. It blamed “armed terrorists” for the attacks.

The unrest took place as U.N. observers continued to fan out across Syria to monitor the government and the opposition's compliance to a cease-fire brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan.

On Saturday, the monitors received 24 armored vehicles that were donated by the European Union. The EU ambassador to Syria, Vassilis Bontosoglou, said the vehicles show the EU's support of Mr. Annan's mission.

Also Saturday, two Turkish journalists held in Syria for two months arrived in the Iranian capital, Tehran. Adem Ozkose and Hamit Coskun were freed after Iran mediated their release.

Meanwhile, a shadowy militant group has claimed responsibility for Thursday's twin bombings in Damascus. In a video posted online, the al-Nusra Front militant group said it was responsible for the attacks that killed at least 55 people.

Syria's state-run SANA news agency said Prime Minister Adel Safar visited the blast sites, as well as wounded victims at a local hospital Saturday. He condemned the attack as a “heinous act” with “no relation to any human values.”

M.J. Gohel, a Middle East analyst and the head of the London-Based Asia-Pacific Foundation, said the al-Nusra Front group began gaining prominence only recently and its strengths and capabilities are unclear.

“This is a group that not a great deal is known about it. It emerged at the beginning of this year in January and it has a global Jihadist agenda and it calls its fighters Mujahadeen in the same way as the Taliban fighters.”

The U.N. says more than 9,000 people have been killed in violence related to the anti-government uprising which erupted in March 2011.