After regaining control of the restive town of Jisr al-Shughour, 12 miles from the border with Turkey, Syria’s government forces appear to be extending their crackdown on protesters and opposition groups to nearby towns, including portions of the northeastern corner of the country that border Iraq. After three months of protests, President Bashar Assad has refused to step down but agreed to limited reforms. The crackdown by security forces in Jisr al-Shughour came as the government appeared to be on the verge of losing control of swaths of residential areas, raising the stakes in the ongoing confrontation.
President Assad has faced growing international pressure, including from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who has accused the Syrian government of “savagery”, and from the United States. White House spokesman Jay Carney added to similar calls from State Department officials, telling reporters that “President Assad needs to engage in political dialogue. A transition needs to take place. If President Assad does not lead that transition, then he should step aside.” President Assad has been in office since 2000, when he succeeded his father Hafez.
There are now more than 8,000 refugees in Turkey, in addition to an estimated 1,400 killed and 10,000 detained. Because foreign media have not been allowed to operate in Syria during the unrest, the numbers are based largely on estimates from activist groups.
NATO Bombs Strike Tripoli, Rebels Claim Gains
NATO airstrikes targeted one of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s compounds in the capital, Tripoli, Tuesday, as government troops clashed with rebel forces in western Libya near the border with Tunisia. Clashes were reported around the town of Dehiba, which has been a key supply route for the opposition.
NATO, which has recently extended its term by three months, said it cannot commit to not targeting Roman ruins where Gadhafi’s forces are believed to be hiding weapons, according to CNN. As the months have passed, some have expressed concern about the cost and sustainability of the NATO mission, which was originally set to expire on June 27.
On Monday, Germany’s foreign minister said the opposition’s Transitional National Council was the “legitimate representative” of Libya, another boost from the international community after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged African leaders to isolate Gadhafi during a visit to the African Union in Ethiopia.
2 Soldiers Killed in Southern Iraq, Insurgents Storm Government Building
Two more U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq on Monday, although the military did not provide details as to how they were killed, bringing the total for June to eight, five of whom were killed in a rocket attack on their base. U.S. forces are scheduled to leave Iraq at the end of this year.
After two car bombs exploded outside, gunmen stormed an Iraqi government building in Baquba, killing at least eight people and injuring an unknown number as members of the provincial council had gathered for their weekly meeting. There were reports of hostages being held inside the building.
A similar large-scale attack in Tikrit in March killed 58 people.
Report: Majority of Guns in Mexico Violence Originated in U.S.
A newly released study shows that 70 percent of guns seized in Mexico between 2009 and 2010 — many used by violent drug cartels — can be traced back the U.S. Of the 29,284 studied, 15,131 were manufactured in the U.S. and 5,373 made elsewhere but transported through the U.S.
The report was based on numbers tallied by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and released by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.
Feinstein said “Congress has been virtually moribund while powerful Mexican drug trafficking organizations continue to gain unfettered access to military-style firearms coming from the United States.”
Mexican authorities have said previously that the U.S. has not taken adequate steps to prevent the spread of weapons across the border. In the last five years, an estimated 35,000 people have died in Mexico’s drug war.