BBC news 2011-08-01

BBC News with Iain Purdon

President Obama has said he's horrified at what he called the Syrian government's "brutality against its own people". His comments came at the end of one of the bloodiest days since the uprising began in mid-March. At least 100 people have been killed across Syria in government offensives against opposition protesters. Marcus George reports from Washington.

In a strongly-worded statement, President Obama said he was appalled by the violence in Hama, which he said demonstrated the true character of the Syrian regime. He accused President Bashar al-Assad of using torture and terror against his own people, and such actions would ensure he'd be left on the wrong side of history. But he had praise for the Syrian people; they were courageous, and the United States, he said, would continue to stand with them. In recent weeks, Washington has hardened its tone against President Assad, but so far it's avoided any explicit call for him to hand over power.

The leader of the Republicans in the United States Senate says agreement is very close on a deal to raise the limit on US borrowing to avert an unprecedented default on America's debt. Mark Mardell reports from Washington.

The crisis has been caused because the Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, insist that the debt ceiling should not be raised without dealing with the national debt. Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, says they are close to getting what they want. Even if the president and the leaders of both parties can agree, it doesn't mean they can sell a deal to their troops. Many Democrats will be unhappy that deep cuts aren't matched with tax increases. Republican supporters of the conservative Tea Party movement will worry that the cuts can't be enforced while some don't think the debt limit should be raised at all.

Police in Mexico say a suspected cartel leader they arrested on Friday has confessed to ordering the murder of 1,500 people in the northern city of Juarez. The man, Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, is also suspected of masterminding the attack on an American consulate worker and her husband last year. Vanessa Buschschluter reports.

The security forces said the raid, in which Mr Acosta Hernandez was captured, had been long in the planning. The suspect, who's better known as El Diego, is accused of being the leader of the La Linea gang, whose members work as hired killers for the Juarez cartel. The cartel controls some of the main drug smuggling routes from Ciudad Juarez into the United States. Police believe El Diego is also behind a car bomb attack which killed four people in the border city, the first such attack in Mexico's spiralling drug-related violence.

Indonesian police say 17 people have died in election violence in the remote province of Papua, in the east of the country. They were killed in clashes between supporters of two rival candidates for local elections later this year. Papua has been the scene of low-level separatist insurgency for decades, and the area is heavily militarised.

World News from the BBC

The trial has ended in Tehran of two American men accused of spying. It's exactly two years since the men, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, were arrested. They said they had crossed the Iranian border by mistake while hiking in neighbouring Iraq. The Arabic language Al-Alam television is reporting that the verdicts on the two men will be announced in the coming days.


The African Union has announced it'll hold a summit to pledge help for the victims of Somalia's famine, which the United Nations says has already claimed 10,000 lives. The statement comes after considerable criticism of the continent's leaders in the African media for failing to help. The UN says 12 million people urgently need help in the region.

A study, published in the scientific journal Nature Medicine says trials of a cheap credit card-sized blood-testing kit which can diagnose infections within minutes, suggests it could transform medical care in remote parts of the world. Called the mChip, the plastic device contains up to 10 individual detection zones, requiring only a pinprick of blood to be placed on them. Prototypes, tested on hundreds of patients in Rwanda looking for infections like HIV and syphilis, returned almost 100% accuracy.

BBC News.