The Latest: Head of al-Qaida affiliate derides Syria talks

AP News
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Posted: Feb 27, 2017 5:15 PM
The Latest: Head of al-Qaida affiliate derides Syria talks

BEIRUT (AP) — The latest on developments in Syria and at the Geneva talks (all times local):

12:10 a.m.

The leader of an al-Qaida Syrian affiliate is deriding exiled Syrian politicians and rebels for taking part in talks mediated by the United Nations in Geneva with the aim of ending the Syrian conflict.

Abu Mohammed al-Golani says in a video message posted Monday that Syrian opposition delegates in Switzerland "were handing victory" to a regime that is not victorious, referring to the government of President Bashar Assad.

Golani is head of the Fatah al-Sham Front, a coalition of ultra-conservative insurgent factions that is widely considered the latest incarnation of Al-Qaida in Syria.

The group claimed Saturday's suicide attacks against military installations in the government-held western city of Homs that killed 32 people, including a military intelligence chief.

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7:15 p.m.

A Syrian opposition official says his delegation will meet with Russian representatives on the sidelines of the Geneva talks to settle the conflict in Syria.

Nasr al-Hariri says the meeting will "most likely" take place on Tuesday. He tells reporters: "We hope that Russia will adopt a positive attitude."

Al-Hariri appeared optimistic despite the strong military backing and diplomatic protection Moscow has afforded Damascus over the six-year conflict.

He said that Russia, which along with Turkey helped broker a ceasefire in December, appears to be softening its stance toward the armed opposition.

Adds al-Hariri: "The fact that it has recognized these factions as a negotiating party is an indication to Russia's openness."

He spoke after what he described as a constructive meeting with United Nations envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura.

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1:50 p.m.

Syrian activists say airstrikes in the country's rebel-held Idlib province have killed at least 11 people.

The activist-run Baladi News network published footage of rescuers searching for victims in the rubble of a block destroyed in presumed government or Russian airstrikes on Monday, in the town of Areeha in northwest Syria.

The Syrian Civil Defense search-and-rescue group said it had counted 15 fatalities.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least seven civilians and four other unidentified victims had been killed. It blamed the attack on government warplanes.

The strikes come as an opposition delegation gears up to meet Monday with U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura in Geneva to continue talks aimed at resolving Syria's six-year-old war.