'20 dead in Syria; security forces hiding prisoners'

Opposition groups claim most of the killings occurred in Homs, adding death toll of protesters now above 6,000.

January 4, 2012 23:27
2 minute read.
Protesters against Syrian President Bashar Assad

Protesters against Syrian President Bashar Assad 311 (R). (photo credit: Osman Orsal / Reuters)

At least 20 people were killed Wednesday in clashes with Syrian forces in separate cities throughout Syria as security forces transferred prisoners in order to deceive Arab League monitors, Syrian opposition groups said.

Most of the deaths occurred in city of Homs, according to the Syrian Revolution General Commission said - a confederation of some 40 opposition groups. That coalition put the number of protesters killed in the nearly year-long conflict at 6,000.

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The opposition also claimed that Syrian forces had transferred prisoners from the restive town of Idlib to a nearby facility in order to deceive Arab League monitors in Syria to implement an league peacekeeping mission, according to Al Jazeera.    

Because most foreign media is not permitted in Syria, the accuracy of these reports cannot be independently verified.

Earlier Wednesday, Syrian opposition activists said that security forces still had armored vehicles stationed in city streets ready to act against protesters even though Arab League monitors said they had withdrawn.

Opposition groups in the cities of Idlib in the north, central Homs and Deraa in the south said the army had hidden armor in dugouts and replaced tanks with blue armored vehicles said to belong to police forces.

The deaths also come days after the Free Syria Army - a mysterious militant group that has claimed to have over 15,000 army defectors in its ranks - announced a ceasefire pending the visit of Arab League monitors to the embattled nation.

League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby said in Cairo on Monday the monitors had reported back that state forces had withdrawn from residential areas. The mission was ensuring a halt to bloodshed and had secured the release of about 3,500 prisoners, he said.

"We are not seeing the release of detainees or the true removal of a military presence from the streets," said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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"Army tanks have been replaced with police armored personnel carriers that still have the capability to shoot heavy weaponry."

Videos uploaded by activists on the Internet showed armored vehicles hidden behind high dirt barriers.

"Nabil Elaraby, you are in Cairo and we're in Baba Amr. Here are the tanks and there are your monitors," said one activist in a video uploaded on the Internet which showed a team of orange-vested men who appeared to be League monitors standing near an armored vehicle behind a barrier.

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