Top of the Morning: Syrian Prime Minister Defects; WFP Aid Worker Killed; Unsettling Attack in Cote D’Ivoire

Top stories from DAWNS Digest

Syrian Prime Minister Defects

There is word that Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab has defected to Jordan. This would be the most high profile defection to date, and further sign of Assad’s tenuous grip on power. “I announce today my defection from the killing and terrorist regime and I announce that I have joined the ranks of the freedom and dignity revolution,” ran the statement read by his spokesman. Mr Hijab is the first cabinet minister to defect. The BBC’s Dale Gavlak in Jordan says the development underscores the cracks in the regime which are reaching beyond military ranks. Unconfirmed reports suggested that two other cabinet ministers had also deserted and there were claims that a third, Finance Minister Mohammad Jalilati, had been arrested while trying to flee.” (BBC

WFP Aid Worker Killed in Sudan, Operations Suspended

The Nuba border region continues to be an extremely dangerous place for aid workers. “A Sudanese driver for the World Food Programme (WFP) has been shot dead in war-torn South Kordofan state, the UN agency has said.The attack on Sunday marks the second attack against the agency in two days. Two gunmen opened fired on a UN car an estimated 80km north of the state capital Kadugli and killed the driver…The killing on Sunday came two days after armed men in another part of the country spent about 12 hours looting and ransacking a WFP compound, Almagro said. The WFP staff hid during the incident and were unhurt. ‘Since the security situation remains tense and unpredictable we have decided to suspend our operation until the situation calms down,’  [WFP spokesperson]said. The WFP recently completed a food distribution to about 70,000 people in the area, meaning the suspension will not have an immediate impact on their food supply. (Al Jazeera

Signs of Increasing Instability: Another Unsettling Attack in Cote D’Ivoire

At least 6 people were killed in a predawn raid on a military camp in Abidjan today. Well armed assailants attacked the camp, and were able to drive off with a truckload of stolen weaponry. This is the second similar attack in two days in Ivory Coast. Organized violence seems to be on the increase over one year after the election dispute landed its former president at the ICC. “There has been an escalation in armed attacks, mainly in the country’s cocoa-rich west, long the scene of ethnic violence and score-settling linked to disputes over land ownership. At least five soldiers were killed when gunmen fired on a police station and army roadblock on Sunday in Abidjan’s Yopougon neighbourhood, a former Gbagbo bastion. More than twenty people, including seven U.N. peacekeepers, were killed in raids along Ivory Coast’s border with Liberia in June in what Ivorian authorities said were cross-border incursions by pro-Gbagbo militias and Liberian mercenaries.” (Reuters

Iran Asks Turkey and Qatar to Help Free Hostages in Syria

A busload of Iranian men was intercepted by Syrian rebels. The Rebels say they were being sent to help bolster the Assad regime. Tehran says they are religious pilgrims. “Iran has asked Turkey and Qatar to help secure the release of 48 Iranian pilgrims seized in the Syrian capital by rebels, who say the captured men are actually in Syria to fight against opponents of president Bashar al-Assad. Iranian media said on Saturday that a bus load of Iranians were abducted by gunmen while on a pilgrimage in Syria, the latest in a string of kidnappings of visitors from the Islamic Republic, a country allied to Mr Assad. But the rebels accuse Iran of sending fighters from its Revolutionary Guard to help Mr Assad’s forces put down an uprising against his regime, charges Tehran denies. Tehran has accused Turkey and Qatar of helping rebels fighting to topple Mr Assad, but several Iranians previously abducted in Syria though have been released to Turkish authorities. In an attempt to defuse the situation, Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani, have agreed to seek the mens’ release, Iran’s state news agency IRNA said on Sunday. (ABC-Australia