Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Syrian security forces kill six at Omari mosque protest in border town of Deraa

Syrian forces killed at least six people on Wednesday in an attack on a mosque in the southern city of Deraa, site of unprecedented protests challenging President Bashar al-Assad's Baathist rule, residents said.
Those killed included Ali Ghassab al-Mahamid, a doctor from a prominent Deraa family who went to the Omari mosque in the city's old quarter to help victims of the attack, which occurred just after midnight, said the residents, declining to be named.
An official statement said Mahamid, who was killed while he was in an ambulance that had arrived at the scene to rescue the injured, was 'assaulted by an armed gang, which caused his martyrdom.' Before security forces attacked the mosque, electricity was cut off in the area and telephone services were severed. Cries of "Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest)" erupted across neighborhoods in Deraa when the shooting began.
The attack brought to 10 the number of civilians killed by Syrian forces during six days of demonstrations calling for political freedoms.
The protesters, who erected tents in the mosque's grounds, said earlier they were going to remain at the site until their demands were met. The mosque's preacher, Ahmad Siasneh, told Arabiya television on Tuesday that the mosque protest was peaceful.
Authorities arrested a leading campaigner who had supported the protesters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It said Loay Hussein, a political prisoner from 1984 to 1991, was taken from his home near Damascus.
Syria is a country of 20 million. It has been under emergency law since the Baath Party took power in a 1963, banning any opposition. Assad has made promises about liberalisation but has so far ignored demands to end emergency law, curb the security apparatus, free political prisoners, allow freedom of expression, and reveal the fate of tens of thousands of dissenters who disappeared in the 1980s.

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