22 killed in Syria attack on protesters
Sat, 20 August 2011
CAIRO/DAMASCUS — Twenty-two people were killed yesterday as Syrian troops intensified their crackdown on protesters, a day after world leaders called for President Bashar al Assad to step down. Dubbing the protests the “Friday of Signs of Victory,” activists claimed that victory was likely in the restive areas that have recently been the target of the army’s attacks. Sixteen people were killed in southern Daraa province, including two teenagers, activists said.
“The protesters came under fire as they emerged from the mosque,” Omar Idlibi, a Syrian activist based in Lebanon, said. Ambulances were fired at as they tried to remove bodies, he said. According to the online group, Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC), three of those killed in Daraa were soldiers, who refused to open fire on protesters. Others were killed in the central city of Homs and the Damascus suburb of Harasta.
An estimated 20,000 protesters took to the streets in the Khaldiya area of Homs. In the coastal city of Latakia, security forces used loudspeakers to warn the residents of Al Gharraf and the vegetable market in the Raml area to remain indoors. They said anyone on the streets would be arrested. At least 1,855 civilians and 422 security personnel have been killed since the protests calling for Assad’s ouster started in Syria in mid-March, according to human rights advocates.
The reports are difficult to verify as the authorities have banned foreign media and international rights groups from entering the country. Lebanese radio reported that more than 40 Syrian opposition groups had formed a coalition for a unified response to the regime of Assad. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people across the world launched an online campaign yesterday on Twitter called “TellBashar2Go.” “If you TellBashar2Go, then you’re telling the world that you support humanity’s aspirations for dignity,” posted Bint ElHara Layla on Twitter. “Tell world leaders that their silence is louder than thunder,” wrote another.
On Thursday, the United States, Germany, France, Britain and the European Union made the first direct call for Al Assad to step aside, citing the brutal crackdown on his own people and saying he had lost legitimacy to lead the country. Later, the Syrian delegate to the United Nations, Bashar al Jafaari, accused the Western nations of waging a “diplomatic war” against his country. Yesterday, EU countries decided to stop buying crude oil from Syria as they move to toughen sanctions against Assad’s regime, diplomats from the bloc said.
Syria is not a major oil power, having been projected by the International Monetary Fund to have produced less than 400,000 barrels per day last year. However, the sector was expected to provide about a quarter of government revenue. Local activist Abdallah Aba Zaid said 18 people were killed in Deraa province, including eight in the town of Ghabaghab, five in Hirak, four in Inkhil and one in Nawa. Dozens of people were wounded, he said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two people were also killed in the Bab Amro district of Homs. Assad told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon last week that military and police operations had stopped. But activists say his forces are still shooting at protesters. “Maybe Bashar al Assad does not regard police as security forces,” said a witness in Hama, where security forces fired machine-guns late on Thursday to prevent a night-time protest.
Syrian state television said the deaths in Ghabaghab were caused by gunmen who attacked a police post, killing a policeman and a civilian and wounding two others. It said two members of the security forces and one gunman were killed in a clash in Harasta, near Damascus. — Reuters
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