At least 88 killed by Syrian security forces, activists say

US, UK urge Syrian government to stop using violence against protesters; White House demands Assad follow through with reforms.

By REUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFF
April 23, 2011 01:17
2 minute read.
Protesters hold a Syrian flag during a demo

Syria protest flag 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Syrian security forces shot dead 88 civilians in confrontations with pro-democracy protesters on Friday, a grouping of activists coordinating the demonstrations said on Friday.

The Local Coordination Committees sent Reuters a list with names of 88 people classified by region that the group said were killed in areas stretching from the port city of Latakia to Homs, Hama, Damascus and the southern village of Izra'a.

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The White House on Friday urged the Syrian government to stop its violence against demonstrators and called on Damascus to follow through on promised reforms. The comments came as Syrian security forces shot to death dozens of protesters across Syria in the bloodiest day in a month of escalating demonstrations against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

White House spokesman Jay Carney, speaking to reporters as President Barack Obama flew back to Washington from California, said, "We deplore the use of violence." He called on the Syrian government to "cease and desist in the use of violence against protesters" and to follow through on promised reforms.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Friday echoed the White House's call for a follow through on reforms, saying that said  "Emergency Law should be lifted in practice, not just in word."

"I am extremely concerned by the reports of deaths and casualties across Syria" Hague said, adding that the the Syrian government should "exercise restraint instead of repression."

Syrian rights organization Sawasiah said 70 civilians had been killed across the country, in the biggest demonstrations to sweep Syria so far. Wissam Tarif, director of human rights group Insan, gave a similar death toll.

It was not possible to independently confirm the figures.

Tens of thousands of people had taken to the streets of cities across Syria and called for the "overthrow of the regime", reflecting the hardening of demands which initially focused on reforms and greater freedoms.

The protests went ahead despite Assad's lifting of the state of emergency the day before. Ending the hated emergency rule, in place since the Baath Party seized power 48 years ago, was a central demand of demonstrators, who also seek the release of political prisoners and dismantling of the security services.

Friday's violence brings the death toll to about 300, according to rights activists, since the unrest which broke out on March 18 in the southern city of Deraa.

Activists cited the highest toll in the nearby village of Izra'a where protesters had been trying to head for Deraa. Residents said 14 people were killed.

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