- Terror attack in Sweden
By Bennett Oghifo with agency report
The Syrian government, Russia and Iran have denounced yesterday’s early morning strike by the United States on a Syrian government-controlled airbase which resulted in the death of at least seven people.
The US said it was in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack by Syrian army on a rebel-held town that killed scores of civilians including women and children, a claim denied by the Syrian government describing the attack as “aggression and violation of international law.”
Also yesterday, three people were killed by truck driven into crowd in Swedish capital, according to Reuters. The truck plowed into a crowd on a shopping street and crashed into a department store in central Stockholm on Friday, killing three people and wounding eight in what the Prime Minister said appeared to be a terrorist attack.
In a statement carried by the state-run SANA News Agency and read on television, the Syrian military said the US strikes were done on a “pretext” of the Khan Sheikhoun attack, without the full facts being disclosed.
It also said the attack, which caused extensive damage to the base, made the US a partner of “terrorist groups”.
Syria’s State-news Agency, SANA gave a death toll of nine civilians, including four children.
It was the first direct military action the US has taken against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the country’s long-running conflict, now in its seventh year.
“There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the chemical weapons convention and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council,” US President Donald Trump said in a televised statement after the strike.
Syria’s opposition National Coalition hailed the US attack, saying it puts an end to an age of “impunity” and should be just the beginning of further military action against Assad’s forces.
Russia, a key military ally of the Assad government, strongly condemned the strikes, saying Washington’s action would “inflict major damage on US-Russia ties”, according to Russian news agencies.
Russian government yesterday, suspended communication with the US effectively freezing the memorandum of understanding agreed between the two powers to avoid accidental military clash.
The Pentagon said that Russia had been notified ahead of the operation – but US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Washington had “sought no approval from Moscow”.
At least 86 people, including 27 children, were killed after a suspected poison gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Syrian government denied carrying out the raid. Russia has blamed the opposition, saying a government shell hit a building where rebels were producing chemical weapons. The rebels deny this.
“I stress, once again, that the Syrian Arab Army did not and will not use such weapons even against the terrorists who are targeting our people,” Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told reporters in Damascus on Thursday.
At the time of the US strike, Trump was at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, where he is holding two days of meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Trump said the strike was in the “vital national security interest” of the US.
“I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types,” he said.
While yesterday’s strike was the first direct US military action against Assad’s forces, fighter jets by a US-led coalition last year killed dozens of troops fighting for the Syrian government after being “misidentified” as ISIL fighters, according to the US army.
The U.S. military strike on a Syrian airbase was “understandable”, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said yesterday, given that the U.N. Security Council had failed to take decisive action after a deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria.
The US ambassador to the United Nation, Nikki Haley warned that the US would do more if necessary.
“I turned around and saw a big truck coming toward me. It swerved from side to side. It didn’t look out of control, it was trying to hit people,” Glen Foran, an Australian tourist in his 40s, told Reuters.
“It hit people, it was terrible. It hit a pram with a kid in it, demolished it,” he said.
“It took a long time for police to get here. I suppose from their view it was quick, but it felt like forever.”
Part of central Stockholm was cordoned off and the area was evacuated, including the main train station. All subway traffic was halted on police orders. Government offices were closed.
The suspect has been arrested.