Opposition Leader Killed in Syria, Russia Issues Warning

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BY TRACY PFEIFFER ANCHOR BLAKE HANSON Activists say government forces in Syria assassinated a prominent...
BY TRACY PFEIFFER ANCHOR BLAKE HANSON Activists say government forces in Syria assassinated a prominent opposition leader Friday -- and later opened fire on mourners at his funeral. Al Jazeera has more. “Meshaal Tammo, a 53-year-old Kurdish activist and opposition spokesman, was killed when four masked assailants stormed his house ... in northern Syria, and opened fire, also wounding his son and another fellow activist in the Kurdish Future Party.” Later reports say when Tammo’s funeral turned into an anti-government protest -- security forces opened fire. The U.S. State Department says the violence is a quote- “clear escalation of regime tactics.” A writer for the Financial Times says Tammo’s death could serve as a rallying point for rebels, especially the Kurds. “Mr Tammo was spokesman for one of the Syrian Kurds’ 14 illegal political parties, and was in prison until earlier this year. He was also a member of the recently formed Syrian National Council, the umbrella group of the opposition. ...Syria’s Kurdish minority, which forms nearly 10 per cent of the population, is the only group with a history of serious, organised opposition to the Assad government.” On the same day, reports say opposition leader Riad Seif (ree-AD safe) was beaten in broad daylight. While rebels pin the two acts on the security forces of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, the government says it was the work of armed terrorist groups. The BBC reports, Friday attacks have become a staple of government security force crackdowns. “Fridays see an all-too-familiar pattern in Syria. Once prayers in the mosques are said, anti-government protesters take to the streets. …These chants are ‘Peaceful, peaceful! Our revolution is peaceful!’ Some banners openly back the new opposionist Syrian National Council, but the shootings continue.” All this- just days after Russia and China blocked a United Nations resolution calling for more sanctions against the country. And a correspondent for CNN tells Erin Burnett the protesters aren’t letting that go lightly. ARWA DAMON, CNN: “We also saw demonstrators expressing their anger towards Russia and China, the two countries that vetoed the resolution. Activists believe now both those countries are just as culpable as the Syrian regime itself for the bloodshed inside that embattered nation.” But Russian President Dmitry Medvedev did issue a stern warning, saying Assad should implement the necessary reforms, or voluntarily step down. The Guardian quotes him as saying... "If the Syrian leadership is incapable of conducting such reforms, it will have to go... But this decision should be taken not in Nato or certain European countries. It should be taken by the Syrian people and the Syrian leadership." The United Nations now estimates the Syrian crackdown on demonstrators has resulted in more than 2,900 deaths since March.
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