The death toll among security forces in the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shugour has risen to 80 after clashes with hundreds of unidentified gunmen, Syrian state television reported Monday.
REUTERS - Syrian forces fought hundreds of gunmen in a northwestern town and 80 security force members were killed, state television said on Monday, in the first report of a major clash in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
The television said armed groups set government buildings ablaze in the town of Jisr al-Shughour, stole five tonnes of dynamite and were firing at civilians and security using machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades.
"The security forces have managed to end a blockade over one of the neighbourhoods (in Jisr al-Shughour) that was seized by the gunmen for a while and are now battling them to end the blockade on the other neighbourhoods," it said.
"The gunmen mutilated some of the bodies and threw some into the river. The people in Jisr al-Shughour are urging the army to intervene speedily," it said.
Activists earlier said a security operation had been under way in the town since Saturday in which they said at least 37 residents and 10 police were killed.
Authorities have prevented most international media from operating in Syria, making it impossible to verify accounts of the violence from activists and officials.
Protests against Assad have grown despite reform gestures dismissed by the opposition and a continuing crackdown that has killed at least 1,100 people since the uprising against Assad broke out in mid March.
Residents said the wave of killings in Jisr al-Shughour erupted on Saturday when snipers on the roof of the main post office fired at a funeral for six protesters killed during a demonstration a day earlier.
Angry mourners set fire to the post office after the shooting, said one Jisr al-Shughour resident, a history teacher who gave his name only as Ahmad. The Syrian state television said eight security members were killed when armed gunmen attacked the post office building.
It said at least 20 security members were killed in an ambush by "armed gangs," and another 37 were killed in an attack on a security post. It did not report residents' deaths.
Jisr al-Shughour, a town of 50,000 people, lies on a road between the coastal city of Latakia and Syria's second city of Aleppo, which have seen little protests against Assad so far. The town is of Sunni majority but activists said there are Alawite and Christians villages in the area.
Rights campaigners say some deaths of soldiers or police during the uprising have been the result of the killing of security forces trying to defect or refusing to obey orders.
Date created : 2011-06-06