Alleged organ-eating, executions raise concern over support for Syria’s rebels

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
May 16, 2013

Rebel extremism makes U.N. nervous, six Americans among 15 killed in Kabul, and violence takes turn for the worse in Iraq. Today is Thursday, May 16, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

A Free Syrian Army fighter jumps from a pick-up truck loaded with rockets to be launched toward locations controlled by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Deir al-Zor, May 15, 2013.  REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

Support for Syrian rebels wavers. The outcome of yesterday’s U.N. General Assembly vote on a draft resolution condemning Assad and his forces indicates growing concern over extremism in Syria’s rebel movement:

While the non-binding text has no legal force, resolutions of the 193-nation assembly can carry significant moral and political weight. There were 107 votes in favor, 12 against and 59 abstentions – a drop in support compared with a resolution condemning the Syrian government that passed in August with 133 votes in favor, 12 against and 31 abstentions. U.N. diplomats cited concerns that Syria could be headed for “regime change” engineered by foreign governments and fears about a strengthening Islamist extremist element among the rebels as reasons for the decline in support for the resolution.

Unverified footage published today is said to show rebel soldiers executing Assad’s troops, days after a video emerged that allegedly recorded a rebel commander gnawing on the organs of a government soldier. Segments of Syria’s fractured opposition carrying out such revenge killings may make U.N. member states reluctant to send arms. The U.N. resolution demands an immediate end to all violence and called violations of human rights widespread and systematic. The Syrian National Council accepted the draft but said more needed to be done. Russia voted vehemently against the resolution, saying it could hinder efforts to reach a diplomatic solution during a U.S.-Russia hosted peace conference. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to push President Obama for more assertive action on Syria during their meeting today.

Suicide blast rocks rush hour in Kabul.  A member of the Taliban-allied Hezb-e-Islami killed at least 15 people, including six Americans, in a suicide attack on a foreign troop convoy, say Afghan and foreign officials:

Hezb-e-Islami, which means Islamic Party, is a radical militant group which shares some of the anti-foreigner, anti-government aims of the Taliban.But the political wing of the group, founded by warlord and former anti-Soviet fighter Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has been in exploratory talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on a peace deal to end the 12-year war. The National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, says it thwarts a large number of attacks on the capital on a weekly basis.

Forty people were wounded by the blast, which shattered windows in nearby homes. A Hezb-e-Islami spokesman said the group was planning the attack for over a week and was targeting military advisers. International troops are preparing to leave Afghanistan by the end of next year, fuelling concerns of instability. Afghan President Hamid Karzai responded by accusing Pakistan of destabilizing his country.

Surge in sectarian violence after Iraq’s bloodiest month in years. Explosions in Shi’ite markets in Baghdad and northern Iraq killed at least 17 people on Thursday in yet another deadly incident of sectarian violence:

Attacks on Sunni and Shi’ite mosques, security forces and tribal leaders have mushroomed since security forces raided a Sunni protest camp near Kirkuk a month ago, igniting clashes and fuelling worries of a slide back into all-out sectarian war. Iraq has grown more volatile as the civil war in neighboring Syria strains fragile relations between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims.

According to the U.N., 712 people were killed in April, making it the deadliest month in almost five years. Sectarian tension has run high since American troops withdrew from Iraq in 2011 as Shi’ites, Sunnis and ethnic Kurds fight for power in the Iraqi government. No group has yet claimed responsibility for today’s attacks.

Nota Bene: Reuters photos show unmarked graves peppering the landscape of the deadly U.S.-Mexico border.

Standouts:

Deadly cuts - Cases of malaria and HIV increase in Greece as austerity measures slash the health care budget. (The Atlantic)

Hornet hoax - Reports of a Swedish man who died trying to have sex with a hornet’s nest are apparently fake. (International Business Times)

Popemobile - Fans can now take pope-themed bus tours in Argentina. (BBC)

Kentucky Fried Contraband - Gazans smuggle KFC through a tunnel from Egypt. (The New York Times)

Bye bye, Becks - Soccer star David Beckham will retire from the sport at the end of the season. (The Associated Press)

From the File:

  • Mid-sized Italian banks face big bang for want of bucks
  • Austrian hostage says feared execution in Yemen
  • Cyclone Mahasen buffets Bangladesh coast, six dead
  • Islamist gunmen kidnap seven Egypt security personnel in Sinai
  • Iran says ready for nuclear talks with world powers
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