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Terrorism & Security

Syria opposition unity bid thwarted by Assad regime's brutal crackdown

But Syria's opposition in exile met in Istanbul anyway, electing what it called a National Salvation Council this weekend.

By Correspondent / July 17, 2011

Syrian opposition supporters holding their national flag attend a meeting in Istanbul on Saturday.

Emrah Dalkaya/Reuters

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Members of Syria’s opposition in exile met this weekend and elected a council they say will challenge the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. But the group’s plan to hold a video conference with opposition leaders inside Syria, who have been leading an uprising that has now entered its fifth month, fell through after Syrian security forces attacked the neighborhood where the leaders were gathering in Damascus.

The meeting came after a bloody Friday in which Syrian security forces opened fire on large protests around the country. At least 28 people were killed on Friday, according to activists, who also say the regime has killed about 1,600 people since the protests against Mr. Assad and his authoritarian regime began in March.

The planned gathering of opposition activists Saturday was canceled after Syrian forces attacked protests in the neighborhood where it was to be held, killing at least 15 protesters, reports The Washington Post. That kept the conference of exiled opposition figures in Istanbul from achieving its goal of connecting with the internal opposition and coming up with a unified strategy to oust Assad.

Yet the group in Istanbul went ahead and elected what it called a National Salvation Council, reports Reuters. Though the 25-member council includes Islamists, liberals, and independents, it is unclear how much support it has from protesters on the ground in Syria. It is mostly made up of aging figures who left Syria years ago.

The Post reports that one of the main groups organizing protests in Syria, the Local Coordination Committees, declined to send representatives to the gathering in Damascus that had planned to hold a video conference with the group in Istanbul. The group said it was unsure of the gathering’s motives.

Big turnout for protests

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