The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 27, 2013

Watchdog: Syria has filed chemical weapon details

(Continued)

The announcement came among renewed fighting in Syria. Al-Qaida-linked rebels battled government troops for control of the Christian town of Sadad north of Damascus, activists said.

The rebels have been trying to seize the town for the past week, and residents in the rebel-held western neighborhoods of Sadad are trapped in their homes, said Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.

The rebels appear to have targeted Sadad because of its strategic location near the main highway north from Damascus rather than because it is inhabited primarily by Christians. But extremists among the rebels are hostile to Syria's Christians minority, which has largely backed President Bashar Assad during the conflict.

The official Syrian news agency said troops wrested back control of eastern parts of Sadad, but were clashing in other areas.

Also Sunday, Syrian Kurdish gunmen were trying to secure their hold over a major border crossing with Iraq after capturing the captured the Yaaroubiyeh post in northeast Syria on Saturday. Abdurrahman said the Kurdish gunmen were fighting pockets of fighters from extremist rebel groups in southern Yaaroubiyeh.

Syria's chaotic more than 2 ½ year-old conflict pits Assad's forces against a disunited array of rebel factions. Al-Qaida-linked hard-liners have fought other rebel groups as well as Kurdish militias who have taken advantage of the government's weakness to cement control over territory dominated by the ethnic minority.

The main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, accused Iraqi forces of fighting moderate Syrian rebels at Yaaroubiyeh, and shelling the area in cooperation with Kurdish militants.

Iraq's Interior Ministry spokesman, Saad Maan Ibrahim, rejected the accusations, saying they are "baseless because Iraq and its security forces have nothing to do with the fighting at the Syrian border crossing."

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