Beirut – Syrian rebels launched a counteroffensive in the northern city of Aleppo, recapturing a base near its international airport hours after the army advanced into the area, activists said Saturday.
The fighting came as the main Western-backed opposition group began a two-day meeting in Istanbul to decide whether they will attend a proposed peace conference the U.S. and Russia are trying to convene in Geneva.
The Syrian National Coalition has demanded that President Bashar Assad step down in any transitional Syrian government as a condition for going to Geneva. Syrian officials say Assad will stay in his post at least until his terms ends in 2014 and that he may run for re-election.
In Aleppo, al-Qaida-linked rebels and other Islamic fighters recaptured the Brigade 80 base that had protected the city’s airport, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Aleppo Media Center said. The government has not confirmed losing the base.
Capturing the government-held Aleppo International Airport, which has been closed due to fighting for almost a year, is one of the Syrian rebels’ major objectives.
Journalist from Miami released by authorities
Caracas, Venezuela – Venezuelan authorities released on Saturday a Miami Herald reporter they detained almost two days ago while he reported on the South American country’s economic crisis.
The Miami Herald reported on its website that Jim Wyss was released from a detention facility in Caracas and handed over to U.S. Embassy officials.
Wyss, the Herald’s Andean bureau chief, was detained Thursday by the National Guard in San Cristobal, a western city near the border with Colombia that is a hotbed for illegal transactions used to circumvent rigid currency controls.
Throughout the ordeal, Venezuelan authorities never said why Wyss was being detained.
Wyss, who is based in Bogota, traveled to San Cristobal to report on next month’s municipal elections, which are taking place amid an economic crisis marked by 54 percent inflation and shortages of staples such as milk and toilet paper.