Beirut, Lebanon – Syrian security forces launched a harsh crackdown Friday on protesters calling for political freedoms, killing at least five people and marking the gravest unrest in years in one of the most repressive states in the Mideast, according to accounts from activists and social media.
Mazen Darwish, a prominent Syrian activist in Damascus, said at least five people were shot and killed when security forces tried to disperse hundreds of protesters in the southern town of Daraa, near the Jordanian border.
Friday’s violence happened during one of several demonstrations across the country in Homs, Banyas and the capital, Damascus. But only the Daraa protest turned deadly, Darwish said.
Pakistan cancels talks with U.S.
Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan pulled out of talks this month with the United States on the future of Afghanistan in protest of an especially deadly American missile attack, the government said Friday, in a sign of rising tensions between the two uneasy allies.
Pakistan’s powerful army chief has already criticized Thursday’s missile attack on a house close to the Afghan border in a rare personal statement. Intelligence officials say around 36 people – most of them civilians – were killed. A U.S. official familiar with details denied that innocent people were targeted and suggested all the dead were militants or sympathizers.
The relationship was already fraught over the case of an American CIA contractor who shot and killed two Pakistanis but was freed on Wednesday, putting the weak government on the defensive against critics who accused it of selling out to the Americans.
The missile attack added to the heat on the government, which summoned U.S. Ambassador Cameron Munter to protest.
“It is evident that the fundamentals of our relations need to be revisited,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.