Deadly shooting in Banias, Syira: witnesses

AFP , Sunday 10 Apr 2011

Syrian security forces open fire against a mosque, killing and wounding many in a focal point of demonstrations

Syrian security forces opened fire in the coastal town of Banias on Sunday, killing and wounding people, witnesses told AFP.

"Syrian security forces have been firing for the last two hours in the neighbourhood of Ras Al-Nabee where there is the Al-Rahman mosque," a focal point of demonstrations, a witness told AFP, saying four were wounded.

Another witness reported "many dead and wounded" without providing any numbers.

The gunfire, according to both witnesses, came from the Alawite neighbourhood of Al-Quz.

A rights activists, who requested anonymity citing security concerns, said the shots were aimed at the mosque and left seven people injured.

Five people had already been wounded in a drive-by shooting carried out by plainclothes agents of the Syrian government in the Mediterranean coastal town, according to a witness.

Seven cars "carrying people sent by the regime arrived in front of the Abu Bakr Al-Sidiq mosque and their occupants opened fire," the witness said.

The perpetrators quickly took flight, although witnesses were able to take down the licence plates of some of their vehicles.

"The people behind this shooting are regime thugs and their names are known to us," the witness said.

He added that peaceful demonstrations had been held in Banias on Saturday afternoon.

Residents of Banias had "agreed to climb on their roofs at 10:00 pm to call in a single voice for the fall of the regime, but by 8:30 all landlines and cell phones were cut."

The witness said residents had set up checkpoints to protect their neighbourhoods against similar violence.

An unprecedented opposition movement erupted in Syria on 15 March, challenging the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, who has been in power since 2000.

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