Syrian Troops Fire Mortars in Damascus, EU Says Assad to Blame for Chemical Attacks
As Kerry works hard to rally up European support for military intervention in Syria's crisis, Syrian government troops continued to crack down on opposition fighters Saturday in the latest round of violence which left 16 people dead.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (an apolitical human rights group), military forces fired mortars at rebel fighters in an area south of Damascus early Saturday, killing 14 opposition members and two civilians, including a child.
Also on Saturday, members of the Syrian opposition group the Nusra Front — a Sunni Muslim group linked to Al Qaeda — claimed responsibility for the killing of a Syrian governor last month. The group, which has been one of the more forceful of the rebel organizations, accused Governor Abdul Razak of being part of the regime's crimes against Sunni Muslims, admitting that it was behind the car bomb that killed him on August 25th.
The news highlights one of the many concerns being raised over possible military action in Syria — namely, that the opposition is made up of multiple, disparate groups, some of whom are as violent as Assad's regime. It is one of the issues U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is likely to address as he meets with over a dozen European foreign ministers in Lithuania on Saturday in an attempt to gather international support for possible military strikes in Syria.
And it's looking like he's succeeding. Already, the European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has said that all 28 members of the E.U. now agree that the available intelligence points to the Syrian government being behind August's chemical attack.
"(The government) is the only one that possesses chemical weapons agents and the means of their delivery in a sufficient quantity," Ashton said.
But she still emphasized the need for caution, pressing the U.S. to wait for the U.N.'s inspector report, and approval from the United Nations Security Council, before undertaking any military action.
"The EU underscores [...] the need to move forward with addressing the Syrian crisis through the U.N. process," she said.
Kerry now heads to Paris to meet with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and on Sunday, he'll be talking with Arab League diplomats.
So far, France is the only nation to back the U.S. on military intervention in Syria.