The Latest: Turkish leader says Syria government blame clear

AP News
Posted: Apr 08, 2017 5:04 PM
The Latest: Turkish leader says Syria government blame clear

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syria conflict (all times local):

11:55 p.m.

Turkey's president says it's clear that Syria's government carried out Tuesday's chemical attack in northern Syria and called on Russia to stop supporting Bashar Assad's government.

In a live interview on 24 TV Saturday night, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected Syria's denial of using chemical weapons. "They say it came from the depot of a terror organization there. It has nothing to do with it," he said.

"We have the radar information and we have the forensic reports. Some say Syria does not have chemical weapons. Of course it does. It's clear which planes dropped it." He said NATO has all the radar records as well.

The chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun killed 87 people and prompted the U.S. to fire 59 missiles early Friday to strike a Syrian air base.

Erdogan expressed support for the U.S. missile strike on Shayrat air base, but said it should not end there, and asked Russia to join the effort. He said, "Russia should also join this and should stop supporting Assad."


10:30 p.m.

Syrian opposition activists say an airstrike on a northwestern rebel-held town has killed at least 18 people.

The Britain-based Syria Observatory for Human Rights says those killed in the Saturday strike in the center of Urom al-Joz include five children and two women.

The Ariha Today activist group listed the names of 18 people killed in the airstrike, warning that the death toll could rise as others were critically wounded.

Urom al-Joz is in the Idlib province, a rebel stronghold.

8:15 p.m.

Syrian state TV says a bomb exploded aboard a bus carrying workers near the central city of Homs, killing a woman and wounding 25.

It gave no further details about Saturday's explosion, but the governor of Homs province, Talal Barrazi, told The Associated Press by telephone that the bomb was placed inside a bus that transports workers at a private factory.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed a woman was killed in the blast, saying it also wounded more than 20 people.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Al-Qaida's branch in Syria and the Islamic State group have carried out similar attacks in the past.

Syrian rebels and their families are in the process of evacuating the last opposition-held neighborhood in Homs under a deal with the government.


6:50 p.m.

Syria's state news agency says 242 opposition fighters and their families have left the last rebel-held neighborhood in the central city of Homs.

Saturday's evacuation is the fourth phase of a process that began last month to evacuate opposition fighters from al-Waer neighborhood in Homs city to rebel-held areas in northern Syria.

Homs governor Talal Barrazi told state news agency SANA that the number of fighters should reach more than 400 before sunset Saturday.

More evacuations are scheduled for the coming weeks. The deal to evacuate al-Waer was brokered by Russia, and Russian troops were seen in the city observing the evacuation.

Opposition activists have criticized the agreement, saying it aims to displace 12,000 al-Waer residents, including 2,500 fighters. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has called the evacuees "internally displaced."


5:15 p.m.

Dozens of Syrian students have gathered outside the offices of the United Nations in the Syrian capital Damascus to protest a U.S. missile attack on an air base.

The protesters held banners and chanted anti-American slogans Saturday such as "Death to America" and "Death to Israel."

One of the banners they carried read: "The Iraqi scenario will not be repeated in Syria." They were referring to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq after Washington accused Saddam Hussein of hiding weapons of mass destruction — a belief that later turned out to be incorrect.

University student Ashraf Fadel said he came to denounce "the unjust American aggression against Syria." He added that the United Nations was "created to support America instead of serving the wronged people."


3:35 p.m.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has canceled a planned trip to Russia because of fast moving events in Syria.

Johnson said Saturday the situation in Syria has changed "fundamentally" following a chemical weapons attack on civilians and a U.S. missile strike on a Syrian airfield.

Johnson condemned Russia's continued defense of Syrian President Bashar Assad "even after the chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians."

He had planned to travel to Russia Monday on a trip intended to start fresh dialogue with the Russian government.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans meet with G-7 foreign ministers in Europe next week before going on to Moscow. Johnson says Tillerson will be able to give a "clear and coordinated message to the Russians."


3 p.m.

Syrian activists and state media say an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition on a northern village held by the Islamic State group has killed at least 13 civilians, including children.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 15 people including four children were killed in Saturday's airstrike on the village of Hneida.

The village is in the northern province of Raqqa where U.S.-backed Syrian fighters have been on the offensive against IS under the cover of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.

Syrian state TV said the airstrike killed 13 including children.

The Sound and Picture activist group that tracks atrocities by IS said the airstrike hit an internet cafe.

The attack comes at a time of increasing reports of civilian deaths in airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition in northern Syria.


2:45 p.m.

About 100 protesters gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital of Ankara to protest Friday's U.S. missile strike on a Syrian air base.

Utku Reyhan, the general secretary of nationalist Patriotic Party that organized the Saturday protest, criticized the U.S. missile strike against Shayrat air base. "There is no solution from America, all that comes from America is chaos and blood," he said. "We should focus on solving the Syrian issue with the Syrian administration and our other neighbors Iraq and Iran."

He called for the continuation of the peace talks in Kazakhstan, which were organized by Russia and Turkey.

Protesters chanted "Murderer U.S., get out of Syria" and held banners that read "Murderer U.S., get out of the Middle East."


1:30 p.m.

Turkey's foreign minister says Ankara sees the U.S. intervention in Syria as appropriate but not enough.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaking in the southern city of Antalya on Saturday, said if the U.S. intervention is limited only to a missile attack on a Syrian air base then it is a "cosmetic intervention" unless it removes President Bashar Assad from power.

Cavusoglu, whose country is a strong backer of the Syrian opposition, said the most ideal process will be a political solution that leads to a transitional government accepted by all Syrians as soon as possible. He said that for that "this oppressive Assad needs to go."

Cavusoglu said after the transitional government takes over, it will be followed with elections in which Syrians in the country and abroad can vote.


12:50 p.m.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is calling for the formation of an international fact-finding committee to investigate the chemical weapons attack in a northern Syrian town that killed at least 87 people.

State television reported Rouhani's statement Monday, quoting him as insisting that the committee "must not be heading by Americans" and must be impartial.

Rouhani said that "neutral countries should come and assess to make it clear where the chemical weapons came from."

Iran is a strong allay of Syrian President Bashara Assad, who has insisted that his forces have never used to chemical weapons.


11:50 a.m.

Syrian opposition activists say warplanes have struck a northern town where a chemical attack killed scores of people earlier this week killing one person and wounding another.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday's airstrike on the eastern side of Khan Sheikhoun killed a woman, marking the first death in the town since Tuesday's chemical attack that killed 87.

The Local Coordination Committees, another monitoring group, said the airstrike was carried out by Russian warplane. It said the woman killed had fled to the town from her hometown of Latameh in central Syria.

The chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday triggered a U.S. missile attack two days later that struck a Syrian air base in central Syria killing nine people.


11:25 a.m.

The official Saudi Press Agency is reporting that U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken by telephone with King Salman about the U.S. missile strike on Syria.

The news agency reports that during the Friday phone call, the Saudi monarch congratulated Trump for his "courageous decision."

Saudi Arabia says the missile launch by Trump was the right response to "the crimes of this regime to its people in light of the failure of the international community to stop it."

The kingdom is among the most vehement opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad and supports Sunni rebel groups fighting to oust him. The Sunni rulers of Saudi Arabia are in a power struggle for regional dominance with Iran's Shiite government and view Tehran's support of Assad as a threat to the region.