The Straits Times
Published on Sep 20, 2012

Chopper downed as Syria capital declared a 'disaster'


DAMASCUS (AFP) - Rebel fighters gunned down a helicopter in a battleground town near Damascus on Thursday, a watchdog said, as Syria's opposition declared parts of the capital a "disaster area."

A series of explosions rocked Douma, just north-east of Damascus, shortly before the rebels downed the helicopter, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. State television said the aircraft had "crashed".

The latest escalation of violence in the 18-month uprising came as Dutch Foreign Minister hosted a "Friends of Syria" meeting in The Hague to refine sanctions against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Overnight, United Nations (UN) chief Ban Ki Moon warned that the Syrian government and rebels seemed intent on fighting to the bitter end, while saying the international body may offer a new strategy for peace.