Tuesday 16 January 2018

Syria 'could be another Somalia'

A man gesturing toward buildings destroyed in heavy bombing from military warplanes in Houla, Syria on Tuesday
A man gesturing toward buildings destroyed in heavy bombing from military warplanes in Houla, Syria on Tuesday

The United Nations-Arab League envoy for Syria has warned that the country could become another Somalia - where al Qaida-linked militants and warlords battled for decades after the ousting of a dictator - if the civil war did not end soon.

Battles between regime forces and Syrian rebels left more than 140 people dead across Syria yesterday, while the brother of Syria's parliament speaker was gunned down in Damascus - the latest victim of a wave of assassinations targeting high-ranking supporters of President Bashar Assad's regime.

Among the dead were at least 13 people who died in a series of explosions in Damascus, targeting impoverished districts of the capital. Dozens of others were wounded, activists said.

The violence aroused new concern about the faltering diplomatic efforts to try to end the conflict, with the UN political chief warning that the Syria crisis risks "exploding outward" into Lebanon, Turkey and Israel.

Britain's prime minister David Cameron offered the latest long shot - that Assad could be allowed safe passage out of the country if that would guarantee an end to the fighting.

But there has been no sign the embattled Syrian leader is willing to step down as part of a peaceful transition to save the country.

Assad has vowed to militarily crush the nearly 20-month old rebellion against his rule, and aides say a new president will only be chosen in elections scheduled for 2014.

UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who, like his predecessor Kofi Annan has been unable to put an end to the conflict, warned the civil war could spiral into new levels of chaos.

"The situation in Syria is very dangerous," Mr Brahimi said in remarks published in the pan-Arab daily Al Hayat. "I believe that if the crisis is not solved ... there will be the danger of Somalisation. It will mean the fall of the state, rise of warlords and militias."

Somalia has been mired in conflict for more than two decades after warlords overthrew the east African nation's long-time dictator in 1991 and then turned on each other. The government, backed by African Union troops, is currently battling Islamist extremist rebels linked to al Qaida.

Press Association

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