Iraqi Kurds blame Syria for official's death

Kurdish protestors hold pictures of Meshaal Tamo at a demonstation in Arbil, northern Iraq, on October 8, 2011.

Story highlights

  • Mashaal Tammo was murdered by Syrian security, the PM of Iraqi Kurdistan says
  • An Iraqi Kurdish MP calls the killing an example of Assad's "bloody crackdown"
  • An armed terrorist group killed Tammo, Syria says
  • The EU foreign affairs chief expressed "grave concern" about Syria
Two prominent Iraqi Kurdish officials blamed Syria on Monday for the death of a leading Kurdish figure in Syria who was part of the opposition's Syria National Council.
Mashaal Tammo was "murdered by Syrian security," Barham Salih, prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan, said in a tweet. "Lesson from Iraq; repression cannot defeat free will of Syria's people."
Tammo, a spokesman for the Kurdish Future Party, was shot dead Friday at a private residence in the northeastern city of Qamishli.
Mahmoud Othman, an outspoken Iraqi Kurdish member of parliament, tweeted that Tammo's assassination is a "clear example" of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's "unwillingness to reform and bloody crackdown. Demos continue till democracy is born."
Syria denies any involvement in the killing.
State-run news agency SANA reported Monday that "tribes and social figures in Hasaka governorate denounced the assassination of nationalistic opposition figure Mashaal Tammo and the injuring of his son at the hands of an armed terrorist group in Qamishli on Friday."
Throughout the Syrian uprising -- part of the larger Arab Spring that has swept through the Middle East and North Africa -- Syria has denied cracking down on protesters, insisting its efforts are against armed terrorist gangs.
SANA also reported Monday that Foreign and Expatriates Minister Walid al-Moallem "affirmed that a terrorist group assassinated the opposition figure Mishael Tammo because he rejected the calls for foreign interference."
"His assassination aims at igniting sedition in Hasaka Province, which remained throughout the crisis an example for coexistence and tolerance," al-Moallem said, according to SANA.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that after Tammo's funeral, more than 50,000 people joined a mass demonstration demanding the overthrow of al-Assad's government It said two people were killed.
The group said a 14-year-old was killed in Damascus province and 14 others were injured when security forces shot into a funeral procession for protesters killed Friday.
The Local Coordination Committees LCC of Syria reported a different toll. It said five people were killed in Qamishli, two died in Hama, one in Douma, and one in the Damascus suburb of Dumair.
Salih told CNN Monday, "We're deeply concerned about the turn of events in Syria, the continuing murder of civilians and activists." He said violence cannot stop the "free will of the Syrian people."
Over the weekend, Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign affairs chief, condemned Tammo's assassination.
"Mr. Tammo's death follows other targeted assassinations in the past days, which are totally unacceptable. These appalling crimes further add to the EU's grave concern over the situation in Syria. All those responsible for and complicit in these crimes must be held accountable," she said in a prepared statement.
Tammo had previously spent more than three years as a political prisoner for his criticism of the Syrian government, the statement added.
The Turkish government also put out a statement saying it was "deeply saddened by the heinous assassination."
"We are deeply concerned by and strongly condemn the attempts to subdue the opposition in Syria and the rise in the number of assaults targeting leading opposition figures," the statement added. "A pluralist and democratic society can only be achieved through diversity of opinions. Turkey expects the Syrian administration to realize as soon as possible that the acts of violence designed to suppress the opposition in Syria, which strives to express its views through peaceful means, cannot turn back the course of history."