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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Syrian Army Retakes Qusair From Rebels

Syrian state television has said government forces are now in control of Qusair, a town on the Lebanese border of strategic importance because of its proximity to important supply routes for both sides of the country’s civil war. A statement by the Syrian army said the taking of Qusair was “a clear message to all those who share in the aggression on Syria that we will continue our string of victories until we regain every inch of Syrian land”. Islamist militant group Hezbollah, who has been supporting the Syrian army against rebels, told the Reuters news agency that the town was taken during a dawn raid and that most rebels escaped. A rebel statement said most fighters had withdrawn overnight. “In the face of this huge arsenal and lack supplies and the blatant intervention of Hezbollah, tens of fighters stayed behind and ensured the withdrawal of their comrades along with the civilians”, read the statement. Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Tuesday that samples taken in Syria and analysed in France showed that the nerve agent sarin had been used in the conflict by “the regime and its accomplices”. He added that all options were on the table, but a French government spokeswomen later clarified that the country would not intervene unilaterally.

North London Islamic Centre Destroyed in ‘Racist Attack’

An Islamic centre in north London has been destroyed in a fire described as a racially motivated attack. The Metropolitan Police said the fire at the Al-Rahma Islamic Centre in Muswell Hill was being treated as suspicious. The centre was used by the Somali Bravanese Welfare Association and had apparently been recently sprayed with the letters EDL (English Defense League, an extremist far-right organisation). “The Somali community is in fear. We are all shocked about what has happened and we strongly condemn the attack on the centre. While no one was thankfully physically hurt in the attack, the effects of this crime will be felt very deeply”, said Abubakar Ali, a spokesman at the centre. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said that “there is no place in an open, tolerant and diverse city like London for hate, for prejudice, for violence. Londoners will see this for what it is – cowardly, pathetic and utterly pointless”.

Pakistani PM Calls for End to US Drone Strikes

Newly-elected Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was sworn in by President Asif Ali Zardari and used his first speech as government leader to call for an end to drone strikes on the country. “This daily business of drones has to stop immediately. Other countries must respect our sovereignty and address our concerns. We have to end lawlessness and terrorism”, he told parliament. Imtiaz Tyab, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Islamabad, said drone strikes were extremely unpopular in the country and the prime minister “needs to be seen doing something about it”. Meanwhile, the assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, one the of the areas most hit by drone strikes, prepared a resolution calling on the Pakistani federal government to take immediate steps to end the practice. “The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly strongly condemns attacks on Pakistani soil by US drones, and considers them violations of international laws. Drone attacks have led to a rise in terrorist attacks inside Pakistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and have caused irreparable damage to the province’s economy”, read the resolution.

Turkish Protesters Present Demands to Country’s Government

A committee of academics, architects and environmentalists known as the Taksim Solidarity Platform, representing the organisers of the marches to protect against the development of Taksim Square in Istambul, have presented a set of demands to Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç. They include the sacking of police chiefs involved in the brutal repression of protests across Turkey, a ban on the use of tear gas, the immediate release of protesters arrested during clashes, the sacking of Istanbul’s governor and the definitive scrapping of plans for the redevelopment of Gezi Park, a part of Taksim Square. “Today what we see is a government mentality which is symbolised by the intervention in Gezi Park. It is perceived by the Turkish people as an attack on their own lifestyle and beliefs. And we can see a big social reaction against this mentality from women, men, young and old. They’re saying, ‘we exist, we are here and we have demands’”, said Taksim Solidarity Platform spokesperson Eyup Mumcu.

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