Saturday, April 2, 2011

Syria: At least 16 people killed on 'Friday of Martyrs'

Demonstration in the north eastern Kurdish town of Qamishli

Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters on Friday north of Damascus and in the south of the country.  Some sources put the death toll in several Syrian towns and cities at at least 16.
The shootings came as thousands of Syrians staged demonstrations after Friday prayers. At least eight protesters died in Douma, 15 kilometres (nine miles) north of the capital when police opened fire after protesters emerging from a mosque pelted them with stones, the witness told AFP by telephone.
The death toll could be higher, said the witness, but he only provided AFP six full names. However the offical Syrian newsagency SANA dienied the involvement of police. It quoted an offcial who said that 'gunmen opened fire on hundreds of people and on security forces from roooftops,  killing several people and wounding dozens'. saying.
SANA also reported that a girl was killed in the industrial city of Homs north of Damascus when gunmen opened fire on civilians. But witnesses said that more people were killed in Homs., They produced the names of  six killed  In the village of Sanamen near Deraa another three people were killed when security forces opened fire on protesters, a human rights activist said. He could identify only one victim, Dia al-Shumari, in his 20s, who was shot dead as he entered Sanamen with protesters from two nearby villages, Ankhal and Jassem.
In Deaa itself, witnesses told AFP that thousands of the faithful gathered outside the courthouse after leaving a mosque. They shouted 'Death rather than humiliation,' and 'National Unity'.Protests also took place for the first time in Qamishli and Amuda in the mainly Kurdish populated northeast, Kurdish rights activist Radif Mustafa told AFP.
"Friday of Martyrs" protests were further held in Darriya, near Damascus, where people chanted: "My beloved Syria, give me my freedom.' In Damascus, hundreds of protesters locked themselves up inside Al-Rifai mosque chanting 'Freedom, freedom' as security forces tried to break in. Pro-regime loyalists gathered in the square opposite. In Banias, 280 kilometres  northwest of Damascus, about 1,000 people demonstrated without incident. Eighteen Muslim clerics issued a petition saying they 'back the people's demands for reforms, liberty, the lifting of emergency law and the right to protest'. A little farther north, in the confessionally divided city of Latakia, around 200 people staged a protest without incident in the suburb of Sleibi, where rights activists reported deaths on Wednesday.
Assad, facing domestic pressure unprecedented in his 11-year rule, failed to lift almost 50 years of emergency rule in aspeech he held two days earlier, his first address to the nation since the protests began. Instead, he said there was a "conspiracy" targeting Syrian unity and he blamed Syria's "enemies" for inciting sectarian divisions.
Activists estimate that more than 160 people have been killed so far in clashes with security forces, mainly in Deraa, and in Latakia, while officials put the death toll at about 30.

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