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Syrian protesters say they continue to be attacked

The pro-democracy activists say clashes started by pro-regime groups sometimes include security forces. The violence comes one day after the president's speech about reform.

June 22, 2011|By Roula Hajjar, Los Angeles Times
  • A man holds a roll of pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad during a rally in support of him in Damascus. Elsewhere, pro-democracy protesters say they were attacked by Assad supporters.
A man holds a roll of pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad during a rally… (Khaled al Hariri, Reuters )

Reporting from Beirut — Pro-democracy protesters said they continued to be attacked in cities across Syria on Tuesday, a day after President Bashar Assad promised political reforms in a rare public speech.

The protesters said the clashes were started by pro-Assad demonstrators, in some cases accompanied by government security forces, in at least seven cities, including Hama, Homs and Latakia.

In Homs, three people were killed in fighting, according to residents cited by Reuters. Amateur video, said by activists to have been shot in Homs, appeared to show residents coming under gunfire.

In Hama, pro-government crowds were gathered by security forces to attack the protesters, pro-democracy activists said.

Monday's speech by Assad, which included no concrete plans for reform, was met with dissatisfaction from the international community as well as protesters.

"I wish [Assad] had said specifically that Syria would move to a pluralistic partisan system on that date through free and honest elections attended by international observers, that violence against the demonstrations would stop completely, and that he would guarantee freedom of opinion and expression for everyone who does not resort to violence in Syria," Turkish President Abdullah Gul told the London-based Al Hayat newspaper in an interview published Tuesday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross reported Tuesday that Syrian authorities had granted its observers and relief workers access to certain areas struck by unrest. "The Syrian officials were receptive, and agreed to give the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent wider access to areas of unrest. I will closely monitor how this understanding is put into practice," said Jakob Kellenberger, the organization's chief, after talks with Syrian Prime Minister Adel Safar and Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in Damascus.

Hajjar is a special correspondent. A special correspondent in Damascus contributed to this report.

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