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Several protesters killed as Syria continues crackdown

A 12-year-old boy and at least four women are among the dead, according to activists who said protests continued in cities across Syria.

May 09, 2011|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times
  • A picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency shows the funeral procession of Syrian policeman Mohammed Ali Saqa in the village of Mushrifa.
A picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency shows the funeral procession… (AFP/Getty Images )

Reporting from Cairo — Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar Assad appeared determined to stop persistent antigovernment protests Sunday, with clashes in several cities leading to several deaths, scores of injuries and hundreds of arrests, activists said.

A 12-year-old boy was reportedly killed in the western city of Homs, where other protesters were injured and dozens were arrested, activists said.

In the eastern oil city of Deir Alzour, two protesters were shot and killed by security forces during a night rally, according to Ammar Qurabi, chairman of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria, who is based in Cairo.

Protesters reported 250 people had been detained in Baniyas Sunday, tanks were patrolling the city, troops had surrounded a hospital and security forces had arrested doctors.

"Is there any human rights in Syria today?" Razan Zeitoune, a human rights lawyer in Damascus, said via email Sunday.

Zeitoune said Syrian forces had shot and killed at least 10 civilians Saturday in an attack on Sunni districts in and around the capital.

At least four of those killed were women from the nearby village of Marqab who had been protesting when they were shot, Zeitoune said. She said six other protesters were shot and killed in the coastal city of Baniyas, where a "massive arrest campaign" was underway Sunday.

Her account could not be independently verified.

Qurabi said contacts in Baniyas also told him the Syrian army had entered the city with tanks and that he also had reports of four women being shot dead.

"It's terrible the violent solution by the Syrian regime against the people," Qurabi said. "Most of Syria now has seen crimes by the Syrian regime."

Qurabi complained of efforts by Syrian state media to brand those taking to the streets as extremists. He rejected claims by state media that protesters were terrorists and armed thugs.

"That's not correct. All the videos show that. These are civilian people who want freedom, just freedom, that's it," he said. "These are not just protesters — they are writers, journalists, human rights activists, women — all segments of society in Syria."

Qurabi predicted that people would take to the streets again Monday, particularly in areas where protesters had been killed Sunday.

He said at least 600 people had been killed and up to 10,000 detained since protests began seven weeks ago. Among those arrested are Riad Seif, a leading opposition figure and former lawmaker suffering from cancer. Seif was detained Friday during protests and charged Sunday with staging a rally without a permit, Qurabi said.

The Syrian government has disputed activists' death tolls and said 100 soldiers had been killed in the clashes.

On Sunday, the state-run news agency SANA said security forces continued to pursue "armed terrorist groups" in the cities of Dara, Homs and Baniyas, and that six soldiers, including three officers, had been killed in clashes with protesters.

SANA claimed that hundreds of Syrians also demonstrated Sunday in front of the U.S. Embassy in Damascus to protest "U.S. intervention in the country's internal affairs."

The U.S. has imposed sanctions on senior Syrian officials in connection with the crackdown on protesters and the European Union is expected to impose sanctions on Syrian officials as well. U.N. officials have said they plan to send a team to Syria to investigate potential human rights violations.

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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