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Middle east

Rally to support army defectors turns deadly as troops open fire

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-10-14

At least 12 people were killed on Friday after security forces fired on crowds gathered to support soldiers who have defected from the Syrian army. The soldiers defected in protest against a violent government crackdown on anti-regime protests.

AFP - Syrian forces killed at least 12 people on Friday as they fired on rallies supporting army defectors opposed to a crackdown that the UN said has cost more than 3,000 lives.

"Twelve people were killed today" and dozens wounded, Rami Abdel Rahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP by telephone.

Security forces killed seven people in Dael, a woman and a boy in the flashpoint town of Daraa, both in southern Syria, two in and around Damascus and another on the outskirts of Aleppo.

"There were massive demonstrations in several Syrian cities despite a significant deployment of security forces," Abdel Rahman said, including a rally in Deir Ezzor, "the largest since military operations ended there in August."

Syrians also staged demonstrations in the northwestern province of Idlib, where thousands of people rallied in Maaret Horma, the central region of Homs, the coastal city of Latakia and in Damascus, he said.

"Security forces opened fire in Homs and in Deir Ezzor. In (the western city) of Banias, they entered the Abu Bakr Saddiq mosque, where demonstrators had taken shelter, arresting five among them," he said.

Pro-democracy activists called for nationwide demonstrations on Friday in support of "free soldiers" -- a reference to defectors -- after 36 people, including 25 soldiers, were killed in clashes across Syria on Thursday.

The Observatory has reported mounting armed resistance to security forces. Clashes in Banash and Daraa on Thursday pitted troops against deserters, who apparently mutinied rather than obey orders to shoot civilian protesters.

On Friday, it reported "violent clashes and heavy gunfire between the Syrian army and armed men, believed to be defectors," in Saqba.

Meanwhile, the Local Coordination Committees, an activist network spurring anti-regime protests, said gunfire was heard in the central cities of Hama and Homs, and the northern region of Aleppo.

And official news agency SANA said an "explosive devise went off on the road connecting the Abubakr and Omari mosque in Daraa causing several civilian casualties."

Western governments have issued increasingly shrill warnings that unless the Assad regime heeds popular demands for reform, the so far peaceful protest movement risks resorting to violence.

"More than 100 people have been reported killed in the past 10 days alone," UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said, raising the overall death toll since mid-March to more than 3,000.

At least 187 children were among civilians killed in the relentless clampdown on the protests movement, he said.

The heavy death toll came from "sniping from rooftops and indiscriminate use of force against peaceful protesters," noted Pillay.

"The onus is on all members of the international community to take protective action in a collective and decisive manner, before the continual ruthless repression and killings drive the country into a full-blown civil war," she added.

China and Russia vetoed a draft resolution UN Security Council resolution proposed by European governments that warned of "targeted measures," but not sanctions, against the regime.

The six Arab states of the Gulf have demanded an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers on Sunday to discuss the unrest in Syria, an Arab League official said.

The 22-member League has not yet approved the request but such meetings need only the approval of two members to take place.

In Beirut, the Syrian ambassador denied reports that his embassy was behind the disappearance of Syrian opposition members who have gone missing in Lebanon, calling such accusations "unfounded."

Date created : 2011-10-14


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