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Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Syria buries its dead after anti-regime protests

Syrians hold the funerals of the peaceful protesters who were killed on Friday protest. Rights groups said that at least 44 people was killed in different cities across the country.

AFP , Saturday 21 May 2011
Syria
Syrian protesters waves a Syrian flag in a protest (Photo:AP)
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Syria prepared to bury its dead on Saturday following a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests, which killed 44 people and which US President Barack Obama described as a matter of "acute concern."

Funerals were planned in various regions, an activist said, as a human rights advocate put the death toll from Friday's protests at 44, with most of the casualties in the western province of Idlib and the central city of Homs.

"Syrian authorities are continuing to use excessive force and live ammunition to face popular protests in various regions throughout the country," said Ammar Qurabi, head of the National Organisation for Human Rights, who was reached by telephone.

Qurabi said 26 people were killed in the province of Idlib and 13 in Homs. Two people were also killed in the eastern town of Deir Ezzor, one in Daraya, a suburb of the capital Damascus, one in the coastal city of Latakia and one in central Hama.

Among the dead were a 12-year-old boy and four others between the ages of 15 and 18. One was also identified as a soldier.

Foreign media are not allowed to travel in the country to report on the unrest making it difficult to verify information.

Fridays have become a rallying point in the nine-week revolt with protesters initially emboldened by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and more lately by punitive international sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad and top aides.

Assad's regime has responded to the violence with a brutal crackdown that has left at least 850 people dead and hundreds injured, according to rights groups. Thousands more have been arrested and tortured, activists say.

"The regime claims it wants reforms and dialogue but every Friday there are martyrs," one activist told AFP. "We also have numerous reports of torture.

"Clearly, there are people within the government and also in the opposition who don't want dialogue," he added. "There are also some banking now on US intervention."

After talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Friday, US President Barack Obama said the situation in Syria was of "acute concern" to both their countries.

In a policy speech on Thursday Obama said: "President Assad now has a choice... He can lead that transition or get out of the way.

"The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests," he added.

The European Union too has placed sanctions on several Assad aides although not on the president himself.

But Syria has remained defiant in the face of the diplomatic pressure, accusing the United States of meddling in its internal affairs and of incitement.

It has blamed the violence on "armed terrorist gangs" backed by Islamists and foreign agitators.

The protests have posed the greatest challenge to Assad's 11-year regime, dominated by members of his minority Alawite community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. The majority of Syria's 23-million population are Sunni Muslims.

Turkey has admitted 11 refugees from the unrest in its southern neighbour, among them seven wounded people, Anatolia news agency quoted officials as saying on Saturday.

The seven wounded, admitted for treatment in public hospitals overnight, included one with a head injury in critical condition, said Celalettin Lekesiz, governor of the border province of Hatay, according to Anatolia.

Some 250 people fleeing the unrest in Syria had already crossed into Turkey last month. Around 4,000 have sought refuge in Lebanon.

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