Friday 27 April 2012

April 28, 2012 by  
Filed under News

Qamishlo (West Kurdistan) –  Ebdul Khaliq Hesen from Alenteriya district, a member of the People’s Committees of the PYD (Democratic Union Party) was arrested and taken to court in Qamishlo, Rojava Kurdistan (Syrian occupied Kurdistan) yesterday the 26.04.2012. A crowd of PYD members and supporters gathered outside the court to protest and demanding his release shouting slogans and refusing to leave.  According to reports from Kurdish activists one police was injured and three Kurds arrested but later released.Assad’s security forces and thugs set upon them with gas and firing live rounds to disperse the crowds of protesters who had taken over the area. ANF reports that in response to these attacks 3 security forces from Amude and Qamishlo were taken hostage. Ebdul Khaliq Hesen is still held in custody.Watch the videos:
http://www.diekurden.de/news/auseinandersetzungen-zwischen-den-volksschutzkomitees-der-pyd-und-syrische-sicherheitskraeften-305484/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Syrian Uprising 2011 Information Centre: SUMMARY (27/04/2012): 17 martyrs were reported today as Assad’s forces attacked the protests that continue to take place in hundreds of locations across the country. Meanwhile, there were a series of bomb attacks in Damascus, including a ‘suicide bombing’ outside one of the main mosques in Midan that killed 9 according to state media. This is the second time that the “terrorists” have targeted this area – one of the strongest anti-regime areas of the capital – when international observers in town. See the map for more info. Syria – Friday 27/04/2012 – Google Maps

There are still bloody videos coming through every day: Idlib: Khan Sheikhon: Martyred Child Ahmad Walid Sawadi, 14 Years Old

Ciwanêkurd.net:
 6  27 4 2012

NOW! Lebanon
[local time]  22:06 Heavy machinegun fire was heard in the Barza neighborhood of Damascus, Al-Arabiya quoted activists as saying on Friday.
 21:44 Amnesty International said on Friday it has received the names of more than 360 people reportedly killed in Syria since UN ceasefire observers deployed last week, and called for a more robust mission.
 21:38 The United States warned Friday that it was ready to return to the UN Security Council for action on Syria if a peace deal fails, accusing President Bashar al-Assad of undermining the plan.
 21:05 The sound of explosions rocked Homs’ Baba Amr and al-Inshaat amid heavy gunfire. (S.N.N)
 19:46 Al-Jazeera broadcast footage of an anti-regime demonstration in the Damascus neighborhood of Barza.
 18:51 Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Edleb, killing one person and injuring others. (S.N.N)
 18:44 Syria is not respecting a peace plan outlined by United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Friday after meeting Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.
 18:41 More than 65,000 Syrians have fled the bloody crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime on an uprising against his rule, with most going to Turkey and Lebanon, the United Nations said.
 18:32 An anti-regime demonstration kicked off in the Damascus neighborhood of Nahr Aisha in support of the Free Syrian Army and calling for the execution of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (S.N.N)
 18:20 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows Syrian soldiers announcing the news of their defection to protesters during an anti-regime protest in Rastan.
 18:05 Syrian security forces warplanes flew over Homs’ Al-Hawla. (S.N.N)
 18:00 Tens of thousands of anti-regime demonstrators took to the streets across Syria on Friday demanding the fall of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, a monitoring group said.
 17:55 Syrian security forces tanks raided the Al-Zouhour neighborhood in Damascus. (S.N.N)
 17:53 Reports of snipers being deployed on roof tops in the Damascus neighborhood of Daf al-Shawk. (S.N.N)
 17:50 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows protesters chanting and waving pre-Baath party flags in an anti-regime protest in the Al-Khalidiya district of Homs.
 17:46 Lebanon intercepted a ship on Friday suspected of carrying weapons destined for Syria’s rebel army, a security official said.
 17:12 An anti-regime protest started in Jamaiyat al-Zahraa in Aleppo. Protesters called for overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.(S.N.N)
 17:11 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday in the town of Wadi Barda near Damascus shows anti-regime protesters singing in support of the Syrian uprising.
 17:01 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday inside Zein Al-Abedeen mosque in Al-Maydan neighborhood shows anti-regime protesters chanting in support of the Syrian uprising.
 17:00 An anti-regime protest kicked off in the Damascus neighborhood of Al-Tadamon.(S.N.N)
 16:46 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday in Syria’s Maarat an-Naaman shows residents protesting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
 16:41 Syrian forces on Friday raided the Damascus Barzat Al-Balad neighborhood, Al-Arabiya television quoted the Syrian Centre for Media Freedom and Expression as saying.
 16:41 Syrian forces on Friday attacked protesters in the Sayeda Zeinab area near Damascus and arrested three people. (S.N.N)
 16:36 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday in Hama shows anti-regime protesters chanting in support of Syrian disaster areas such as Homs.
 16:35 Syria’s exiled Muslim Brotherhood on Friday urged UN chief Ban Ki-moon to acknowledge that Damascus had failed to honor a peace plan and to suspend its membership of the world body.
 16:27 Syrian forces on Friday arrested at least 25 people in the Daraa town of Al-Sanmeen. (S.N.N)
 16:23 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday in the town of Al-Derbasiya shows anti-regime protesters, including children, calling for freedom.
 16:21 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday in Syria’s Iskatt shows anti-regime protesters chanting: “Death rather than humiliation.”
 16:10 Syrian forces on Friday raided the Damascus neighborhood of Daf al-Shawk, leaving several people wounded, Al-Jazeera television reported.
 16:04 Syrian forces on Friday raided the Aleppo town of Hayyan, the General Commission of the Syrian Revolution said.
 16:12 International monitors arrived in Edleb two hours after the Syrian forces had broken up protests in the area. (S.N.N)
 16:00 Syrian forces on Friday surrounded mosques in Jisr al-Shoghour in Edleb to prevent residents from protesting. (S.N.N)
 15:59 An anti-regime protest started Jabal al-Akrad in Latakia. (S.N.N)
 15:29 Demonstrations took place in more than 80 different locations in the province of Daraa on Friday. (S.N.N)
 15:22 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows an anti-regime protest in Damascus’ neighborhood of Jawbar.
 15:09 Syrian forces on Friday opened fire on people in the Sakhour area in Aleppo, killing one person and wounding others, Al-Jazeera television reported.
 15:08 An anti-regime protest kicked off in Al-Damir near Damascus in support of the Free Syrian Army and of the cities of Homs and Duma. (S.N.N)
 15:06 Another 15 UN military observers are due to arrive in Syria by month’s end, completing an advance team of 30 charged with monitoring the conflict-torn country’s troubled ceasefire, a UN official said Friday.
 14:58 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday shows protesters displaying an anti-regime slogan in Binnish, in the Edleb province, calling for change toward a “modern society” in Syria.
 14:49 An anti-regime protest began in Qudsaya near Damascus. (S.N.N)
 14:48 An anti-regime protest began in Hasaka’s Markada. (S.N.N)
 14:46 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday in Duma near Damascus shows people protesting against the regime. Protesters are chanting: “Death and not humiliation.”
 14:44 Anti-regime protests began in Edleb’s towns of Maarat an-Naaman, Kafr Nabl, Kafrouma, Hass, Basqla, Tarmla, Khan Sheikhoun, Al-Habeet, Madaya, Al-Rakaya, Heesh, Maar Zeita, Maarat Horma, Sheikh Mustapha and Sahyan. (S.N.N)
 14:43 Security forces stormed Daraa’s town of Yaduda and conducted arrests. (S.N.N)
 14:40 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday in Amouda shows people protesting against the regime. Protesters are chanting that they do not want to be ruled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
 14:39 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday in Ar-Reqqah shows people protesting in a mosque against the regime. Protesters are chanting: “We are not afraid [because] God is with us.” They are also chanting in support of Homs.
 14:38 A YouTube video purportedly filmed on Friday in Hama’s town of Salamiyah shows people protesting against the regime. Protesters are calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to leave.
 14:35 Security forces opened fire on anti-regime protesters in Homs’ neighborhood of Al-Rabii al-Arabi and Damascus’ neighborhood of Al-Zahara . (S.N.N)
 14:31 Thousands protested against the regime in Homs’ Rastan. (S.N.N)
 14:30 An anti-regime protest began in Latakia’s neighborhood of Al-Raml al-Janoubi. (S.N.N)
 14:27 An anti-regime protest began in Duma and Edleb’s Saraqeb, Maarta Masrin, Binnish, Kafr Jales, Ain Shayb, Fayloun Sarmin and Taftnaz. (S.N.N)
 14:26 Anti-regime protests began in Aleppo’s neighborhoods of Sleiman al-Halabi, Al-Karama and Al-Shaar. (S.N.N)
 14:25 Anti-regime protests began in Daraa’s Nawa, Al-Gharyeh al-Sharkyeh and Basr al-Harir. (S.N.N)
 14:21 A suicide bomb attack in the central Damascus district of Midan killed at least nine people and wounded dozens on Friday, Syrian state television reported, blaming “terrorists.”
 14:13 Syrian forces on Friday opened fire on houses located in Edleb’s Ariha, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
 14:05 Syrian forces on Friday opened fire on people praying in a mosque located in Hama; wounding some people, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
 13:57 The Syrian authorities are failing to respect a ceasefire pledge to withdraw troops from urban centers in accordance with an agreed peace plan, the European Union said Friday.
 13:56 An anti-regime protest began in Damascus’ neighborhood of Al-Qaboun. (S.N.N)
 13:56 An anti-regime protest began in Ar-Reqqah. (S.N.N)
 13:55 An anti-regime protest began in Daraa’s town of Naheta. (S.N.N)
 13:52 Security forced opened fire on anti-regime protesters in Damascus’ neighborhood of Al-Qadam. (S.N.N)
 13:51 An anti-regime protest began in Houla near Homs. (S.N.N)
 13:51 Syrian anti-regime activist Yara Shammas faces a possible death sentence, press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on Friday.
 13:50 An anti-regime protest began in Homs’ neighborhood of Al-Ghouta. (S.N.N)
 13:49 Anti-regime protests began in Yabrud and Kaswa near Damascus. (S.N.N)
 13:48 An anti-regime protest began in Latakia’s Jableh. (S.N.N)
 13:48 A blast rocked the Syrian capital’s central district of Midan on Friday, causing casualties, state television reported while blaming the incident on “terrorists.”
 13:45 Anti-regime protests began in Al-Dameer and Harasta near Damascus. (S.N.N)
 13:44 An anti-regime protest began in Hasaka’s neighborhood of Ghouiran. (S.N.N)
 13:43 Syrian forces on Friday opened fire on protesters in the area of Shawakh in Deir az-Zour; wounding some people, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
 13:43 An anti-regime protest began in the towns of Sahel al-Ghab, Qalaat al-Madeeq, Tueni, Al-Shareea, Al-Karim, Al-Hawash and Qastoun near Hama. (S.N.N)
 13:42 An anti-regime protest began in Aleppo’s neighborhood of Al-Sakhour. (S.N.N)
 13:37 Syrian forces on Friday opened fire on protesters in Joubeila in Deir az-Zour, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
 13:38 An anti-regime protest began in Teebat al-Imam near Hama. (S.N.N)
 13:37 An anti-regime protest began in Daraa’s town of Naimeh. (S.N.N)
 13:36 Security forces attacked anti-regime protesters in Daraa’s Al-Sabil neighborhood. (S.N.N)
 13:35 An anti-regime protest began in Aleppo’s neighborhood of Al-Sukri. (S.N.N)
 13:29 An anti-regime protest began in Aleppo’s Manbej. (S.N.N)
 13:28 Anti-regime protests began in the Aleppo town of Hanano and Aleppo’s neighborhood of Seif ad-Dawla. (S.N.N)
 13:27 An anti-regime protest began in Deir az-Zour’s neighborhood of Al-Qousour. (S.N.N)
 13:26
 An anti-regime protest began in Hama’s Helfaya. (S.N.N)
 13:25 An anti-regime protest began in Daraa’s neighborhood of Al-Kashef. (S.N.N)
 13:20 Al-Jazeera television is broadcasting live footage of an anti-regime protest in Daraa al-Balad.
 13:17 Syrian forces on Friday opened fire on people participating in a funeral in the Deir az-Zour town of Mohsen; leaving some people wounded, Al-Jazeera television reported.
 13:16 Syrian forces on Friday surrounded the Harasta suburb of Damascus, Al-Jazeera television reported.
 13:15 Syrian security forces conducted arrests in Damascus’ neighborhood of Nahr Aisha, Al-Jazeera reported.
 13:14 Al-Jazeera television is broadcasting live footage of an anti-regime protest in Deir az-Zour.
 13:12 Syrian security forces stormed Damascus’ neighborhood of Baraza and conducted arrests, Al-Jazeera quoted activists as saying.
 13:11 Syrian security forces have so far on Friday killed 13 people, activists told Al-Arabiya television.
 13:11 Al-Jazeera television is broadcasting live footage of an anti-regime protest in Hasaka.
 13:09 The Syrian army shelled Homs’ town of Al-Saan and injured some people, activists told Al-Jazeera television on Friday.
 13:06 Syrian forces on Friday opened fire on protesters in the Aleppo town of Hayyan; wounding a number of them, Al-Jazeera television quoted activists as saying.
 13:04 Al-Jazeera broadcasts live footage of an anti-regime protest in Syria’s Qamishli.
 12:58 An anti-regime protest started in Al-Qahtaniya in the city of Hasaka. (S.N.N)
 12:56 An anti-regime protest kicked off in Latakia’s Al-Haffa. Protesters are calling for freedom and saluted the Free Syrian Army. (S.N.N)
 12:53 An anti-regime protest started in the city of Abu Kamal in Deir az-Zour. (S.N.N)
 12:51 An anti-regime protest started in the Hasaka town of Ras al-Ayn. Protesters called for freedom and for overthrowing the Syrian regime. (S.N.N)
 12:48 Explosions were heard in Abu Kamal, Houla in Homs and Daraa’s neighborhood of Al-Kashef. (S.N.N)
 12:42 An explosion went off Friday in an industrial zone of the Syrian capital Damascus, near a state-owned transport company, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
 12:15 An anti-regime protest started in the Damascus neighborhood of Kfar Soussa. (S.N.N)
 12:12 Anti-regime protests started in the city of Qamishli. (S.N.N)
 12:10 An anti-regime protest kicked off in the Jawber neighborhood in Damascus. (S.N.N)
 11:30 The Council of the Syrian Revolution Leadership told Al-Jazeera on Friday that there was a car bomb explosion in Damascus.
 9:17 Overnight clashes between troops and rebels in the Syrian city of Homs killed at least one army deserter, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday.
 8:30 MORNING LEADER: UN leader Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that the Syrian government is “in contravention” of an agreed peace plan by keeping troops and heavy weapons in cities.

Reuters: Nine dead in suicide bomb near Damascus mosque

 A suicide bomber killed nine people including security officers at a Damascus mosque on Friday, Syria’s interior ministry said, in another blow to a fraying U.N.-brokered truce between President Bashar al-Assad and rebels fighting for his downfall.

The explosion happened as worshippers were leaving the Zain al-Abideen mosque, which was under heavy security due to its reputation as a launchpad for anti-Assad demonstrations after Friday prayers.

A local resident said security officials at the scene told him a man in military uniform had triggered an explosives vest when he was challenged by soldiers as he walked towards the area.

Many of the body parts scattered across the tarmac were wearing green military-style clothing, the resident said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. But it was close to the site of a January 6 suicide bombing which was claimed by a previously unknown anti-Assad Sunni Islamist group calling itself the al-Nusra Front.

In a statement on state television, the interior ministry said 26 people were wounded in the explosion, one of several bombings on Friday.

“We had been trying to go to pray in the area but they stopped us at a checkpoint. Security weren’t letting us in because there are usually protests there,” one anti-Assad activist told Reuters by telephone.

“Then we heard the blast. It was so loud and then ambulances came rushing past us,” the activist added. “I could see a few body parts and pieces of flesh on the road. The front of a restaurant looked destroyed. People were screaming.”

State television showed images of blackened flesh and a mangled hand lying on the road as soldiers and police cleared the area to make way for ambulance crews.

Earlier, a loud blast was heard near a bus station which activists say is often used by pro-Assad militiamen tasked with preventing demonstrations in the capital. Shopkeepers said a Mercedes caught fire but only the driver was wounded.

State media reported three more minor explosions in Damascus in which four people were wounded, and said five policemen were hurt by two blasts in the coastal city of Tartous.

VIOLENCE “PICKING UP”

The United Nations says Syrian forces have killed more than 9,000 people in the 13-month-old revolt against Assad. Damascus says insurgents have killed more than 2,600 soldiers and police.

Central Damascus has been spared much of the violence, although Friday’s blasts occurred less than a week after a car bomb blew up near an Iranian cultural centre in the capital.

“The action is picking up and it seems the (rebels) and Assad’s forces are starting to battle it out in Damascus as well,” said an activist in Midan who uses the name Mar Ram.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused Damascus on Thursday of breaking its pledge to withdraw heavy weapons and troops from towns, saying he was “gravely alarmed by reports of continued violence and killing in Syria.

The White House also said it was disappointed at Damascus’ failure to adhere to its Annan plan promises and Washington would “continue to ramp up the pressure against the Assad regime”.

Russia, one of the Syrian government’s biggest remaining allies, on Friday said the rebels were largely to blame for ceasefire violations and accused them of seeking to provoke foreign intervention.

“This truce has not yet fully set in largely because opposition armed groups try to create provocations – explosions, terrorist acts, shooting at government forces, government buildings, administrative buildings,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told state TV on Friday.

Most independent media have been barred from Syria, making it hard to verify events on the ground.

The Syrians for Human Rights Network, one of many groups opposed to Assad, said security forces had committed 86 ceasefire violations, including a helicopter gunship opening fire on a civilian area and snipers targeting protesters.

Information Minister Adnan Mahmoud accused rebels of 1,300 truce breaches and said the state “reserved the right to respond to any violation or attack,” state news agency SANA reported.

A dozen U.N. ceasefire monitors are already on the ground and U.N. officials said a full advance team of 30 out of a planned 300-strong presence would be there by Monday.

The slow build-up, more than two weeks after the truce came into effect, has sparked derision from Assad’s foes and frustration in western capitals, where leaders want tough measures imposed on Damascus sooner rather than later.

France says that if Assad’s forces do not return to barracks, it will push next month for a “Chapter 7″ U.N. Security Council resolution – which could allow action ranging from economic sanctions to military intervention.

Western powers have said they intend to push for U.N. sanctions. Russia and China have made clear that they would veto Libya-style military action and have resisted the idea of sanctions.

(Additional reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Erika SolomonDominic Evans and Steve Gutterman in Moscow; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Cool Nordic head faces uphill task as Syria U.N. monitor:

Robert Mood, the tall, square-jawed and fair-haired Norwegian general heading the Syriaceasefire observer mission, appears the archetypal cool Nordic head who will use an image of impartiality to bridge what he has called an “abyss of suspicion.”

Major-General Robert Mood of Norway is pictured during a meeting at the United Nations in Geneva, in this April 4, 2012 file picture. Mood, the tall, square-jawed and fair-haired Norwegian general heading the Syria ceasefire observer mission, appears the archetypal cool Nordic head who will use an image of impartiality to bridge what he has called an ''abyss of suspicion''. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/FilesMood is a veteran of struggling Middle East truces and knows Syria well. The stern-looking 54-year-old general weighs his words carefully and listens attentively. He once warned against peacekeepers’ acting like “an elephant in a glass house.”

His job may be doomed, given mistrust in Syria. But he may have the chance to achieve more than Sudanese general Mohammed al-Dabi, who quit a failed Arab League mission in February, stymied by diplomatic slip-ups and his country’s own poor rights record.

“He (Mood) is a very firm and very clear in his statements, he’s very difficult to misunderstand,” said Kjell Inge Bjerga, researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies, who has worked with Mood.

“He has remarkable diplomatic skills, which is unusual for a general. He has the ability to speak the language of all the sides.”

While he was in Damascus negotiating the deployment of the advanced party of monitors with the government earlier this month, Mood received a text message from his sister.

“Lucky you grew up between an older sister and a younger sister, you turned out to be useful,” the message said.

Mood has tested his skills with multinational forces in Kosovo, and he is part of a tradition of Norwegian involvement in Middle East peacekeeping. The country likes to see itself – and its generals – as above suspicion when it comes to diplomacy.

“Experience in the Balkans is very powerful experience given the complexity of that situation,” said Paul Rogers, professor of Peace Studies at Britain’s University of Bradford.

“And Norway has a reputation as a nation genuinely devoted to peace. So a Norwegian comes in with added credibility.”

As head of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation from 2009-2011, which monitors Middle East ceasefires, Mood often visited Damascus and he is said to already have good contacts with Syrian military officers.

“I fell in love with Damascus in 2009. I have never been received with so much warmth,” he told Reuters in an interview shortly after he was appointed to his new post. He described how he could walk around the “dark alleys” of Damascus with his wife and son and feel welcome and safe.

The capital is less safe these days. Seven people were killed by a suicide bomber in the city centre on Friday, Syria’s state-run news agency reported.

ELEPHANT IN A GLASS HOUSE

Mood told a Lebanese newspaper, The Daily Star, in 2009 that his philosophy then as a U.N. truce monitor was “you don’t come in like the elephant in the glass house and dictate to the people. That doesn’t work.”

But his new posting will severely test him. While 300 observers are planned, so far there are only a handful, unarmed and largely dependent on Syrian authorities for their safety.

With the violence continuing despite an ostensible ceasefire, fifteen more monitors out of a total advance team of 30 were expected to arrive in Syria by Monday. Despite efforts to speed up the deployment of the full mission, it is not expected to get up to strength for several weeks.

Opposition sources and residents say that shelling by government forces and retribution against local people increase once observers have left any place they visit.

“It will be a hugely challenging position,” said retired British Brigadier Ben Barry, who is now land warfare fellow at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“It’s not clear from a Security Council resolution what responsibility there is on the Syrians to facilitate access for the monitors. We don’t know how much flexibility you will have.”

The failed Arab League mission quickly ran into trouble earlier in the year, despised by the Syrian opposition who said it was simply a device to buy more time for President Bashar al-Assad to try to crush demonstrators and armed rebels.

Things have not got any easier. An advance team for the present U.N. observer mission were mobbed last week by angry pro-Assad demonstrators who surrounded their vehicles as gunfire erupted close by.

Mood, from tiny Krageroe on Norway’s southern coast, joined the Norwegian army in 1979 and has served from 2005 to 2009 as the army’s Chief of Staff. He has degrees from Norwegian and U.S. military colleges and also attended the NATO Defence College in Rome.

In an official announcement about Mood’s appointment, the U.N. press office said Mood was Operations Officer with the Norwegian Battalion in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) during the 1980s, when the country was immersed in civil war.

“General Mood is very familiar with the region, and his long experience and close relationship with the U.N. means that he will be able to make a strong contribution to an issue that has become central to international peace and security,” Norwegian Minister of Defence Espen Barth Eide said in a statement.

But Eide added that he has “realistic expectations” of what the observer force led by Mood can achieve, describing the situation in Syria as fragile and the monitoring mission risky.

Bjerga, the researcher who worked with Mood, called him a “pioneer” about peacekeeping in the Balkans, and others agree that experience was formative.

“He is a laconic, tough commander with a good background in the Balkans although his conventional warfighting experience will be limited,” said one European military officer who knows him.

“When it comes to negotiating with the Syrian authorities he will be no pushover. He will be robust, determined and pretty single-minded.”

When first called to Syria, Mood was skiing with his family in the mountains.

Like many Norwegians, he is keen on sailing and comes across as something of a renaissance man in interviews, managing to combine mentions of opera with talk about his work.

“A good opera is all about combining very different elements into a piece that eventually becomes very impressive,” he told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

“It mirrors the team work we often carry out both in the military and in international work.”

Mood says when got the call asking him to lead the assessment team: “It was an easy choice to say yes.”

“It’s worth making the effort,” he said about his mission and international envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan. “The Syrian people deserve to have an opportunity.”

It also carries immense risks.

“These conditions are more or less the most difficult you can expect … It is quite a risky career move for Mood,” said Rogers.

(Additional reporting by Peter Apps in Washington and Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols in New York; Writing by Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Giles Elgood and Vicki Allen)

BBC: Deadly blast hits Syrian capital:

An explosion in the centre of the Syrian capital Damascus has killed at least 10 people and wounded 20 others, state media say.

The reports said a “terrorist suicide bomber” caused the blast near a mosque in the Midan area, but opposition activists blamed the Syrian government.

TV showed graphic images of the scene.

The incident came after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that the government was “in contravention” of a UN and Arab League-backed peace plan.

Mr Ban demanded that Damascus complied with the peace plan brokered by international peace envoy Kofi Annan without delay.

Syrian state TV said civilians and security force members were among the casualties in the Midan explosion, which it said happened as worshippers were leaving Friday prayers at the nearby Zain al-Abidin mosque.

A statement from the Syrian interior ministry vowed to “strike with an iron fist those who are terrorising citizens”.

Midan has been the scene of frequent anti-government protests. An explosion in the same district in January reportedly killed at least 26 people and wounded 63.

‘Troubled’

Earlier on Friday, a separate explosion was reported in an industrial area of Damascus. It was unclear if there were casualties from that blast.

Meanwhile activists say security forces fired on protesters in several parts of Syria on Friday, killing at least three people.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said one person had died in a village outside Damascus, another in the second city of Aleppo, and the third in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour.

The reports could not be independently verified because of government restrictions on the media.

Anti-government protests regularly take place after Friday prayers.

Mr Ban remained “deeply troubled” by the continued presence of heavy weapons and troops in population centres as reported by UN monitors, his spokesman said on Thursday evening.

The UN currently has about 15 observers in Syria monitoring a shaky ceasefire, which came into force on 12 April, and hopes to have the full advance team of 30 in place by Monday.

The Security Council has approved the deployment of up to 300 monitors and the UN confirmed on Friday that Norwegian Maj Gen Robert Mood would lead the team.

An estimated 9,000 people have died in Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad started in March last year, according to UN figures. In February, the Syrian government put the death toll at 3,838 – 2,493 civilians and 1,345 security forces personnel.

On Friday the US expressed “disappointment” in the government’s actions since the ceasefire was agreed, and said it would increase pressure on President Bashar al-Assad.

“We intend to continue to ramp up the international pressure against the Assad regime and encourage them in the strongest possible terms to live up to the obligations and commitments that they made in the context of the Kofi Annan plan,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

However, pictures have also emerged of hundreds of rebel fighters, brandishing guns, pledging loyalty to a new unit of the rebel Free Syrian Army in the northern province of Idlib.

The BBC’s Jim Muir, in neighbouring Lebanon, says this also should not be happening according to Kofi Annan’s peace plan.

The Syrian government says rebels have committed more than 1,300 truce violations.

As international frustration grows, France has said that if the peace plan fails it will press for a “Chapter Seven” resolution at the UN, which allows for action that could be backed by force.

Other Western powers have said they intend to push for an arms embargo and UN sanctions.

Russia and China, however, say they will veto any attempt to authorise military action in Syria and also resist the idea of sanctions. They have already blocked two Security Council resolutions condemning the crackdown on dissent.

Our correspondent says that Russian support for Damascus means there is no chance of strong and united action from the UN Security Council.
For the moment, what hope there is rests with Kofi Annan’s plan, he adds.

Analysis

image of Jim MuirJim Muir BBC News, Beirut

Syrian state TV was quick to blame what it called “terrorists” for the attack, implying it was part of the anti-regime campaign.

But activist organisations accused the regime itself of carrying out the attack to distract attention from the repression of demonstrations after Friday prayers, and to justify the presence of the army in towns and cities in contravention of Kofi Annan’s peace plan.

In the past, opposition groups, including the rebel Free Syrian Army, have strongly denied involvement in such big, indiscriminate explosions, which first started happening in Damascus in December.

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