'More than 100 killed in Syrian anti-government rallies'
LAST UPDATED: 03/24/2011 12:04
Britain urges Syria to respect people's right to peacefully demonstrate; 20,000 gather to protest Wednesday's killing of demonstrators.
Demonstrators in southern Syria Photo: REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri
than 100 protesters have been killed by police gunfire in Deraa, the
Syrian city where a recent wave of anti-government protests have taken
place, AFP cited human rights activists and witnesses as saying
Britain urged Syria to respect its people's right to
peaceful protest after reports of many deaths when security forces
cleared a mosque in Deraa. "We call on the government of Syria to
respect their people's right to peaceful protest and to take action
about their legitimate grievances," British Foreign Secretary William
Protesters march in Syria for fifth straight day
hospital in the Syrian city of Deraa has received the bodies of at least
25 protesters who died in confrontations with security forces, a
hospital official said on Thursday.
"We received them at 5 p.m. yesterday. They all had bullet holes," the official told Reuters.
video clip uploaded to Youtube shows protesters carrying their friend's
bloodied bodies through the streets as gunshots can be heard in the
20,000 Syrians chanting freedom slogans marched on Thursday in the
funerals of nine protesters killed by security forces in the southern
city of Deraa, witnesses said.
"God Syria, Freedom. The blood of martyrs is not spilt in waste!" they chanted in Deraa's southern cemetery.
The nine were among at least 25 demonstrating youths who were fired at by security forces on Wednesday, residents said.
on the Jordanian border, has long been a stronghold of the Baath Party, which
recruits cadres from the region. But in recent days it has become a focus of
unprecedented protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.
shooting on Wednesday began just after midnight, when security forces attacked
protesters in the vicinity of the Omari mosque in the city’s old quarter, the
focal point of the Deraa protests, residents said.
Electricity was cut
off and telephone services were severed.
Cries of “Allahu Akbar” erupted
in one quarter after another as the shooting at the mosque began.
Those killed included Ali Ghassab al-Mahamid, a doctor from a
prominent Deraa family, who went to the Omari mosque to help victims of the
“Syrian authorities think they can kill nonviolent democratic
protesters with impunity,” exiled Syrian rights defender Haitham al-Manna told
BBC television from Paris.
An official Syrian statement said: “Outside
parties are transmitting lies about the situation in Deraa,” blaming what it
described as armed gangs for the violence.
The statement said Doctor
Mahamid, killed in an ambulance that had arrived at the scene to rescue the
injured, was “assaulted by an armed gang.”
It said the armed gang
“stocked weapons and ammunition in the mosque and kidnapped children and used
them as human shields.”
State television showed guns, grenades and
ammunition it said were found in the mosque, but activists said the protest was
peaceful and there had been no weapons.
An official statement said later
that Assad had sacked Deraa governor Faisal Kalthoum. But a main demand of the
protesters was an end to what they term “repression” by the secret police,
headed in Deraa province by a cousin of Assad.
The mosque attack brought
to 10 the number of civilians killed by Syrian forces in six days of
demonstrations for political freedom and an end to corruption in the country of
France, which has been increasingly vocal in condemning the
violence in Syria, urged Damascus to carry out political reforms without delay
and respect its commitment to human rights. It called for an investigation into
the recent deaths in Deraa, the release of those detained in demonstrations and
an end to the use of “excessive force.”
In Damascus, authorities released
six women protesters on Wednesday who took part in a silent demonstration last
week supporting the release of political prisoners, lawyers said.
has lifted some bans on private enterprise but ignored calls to end emergency
law, curb a pervasive security apparatus, develop rule of law and freedom of
expression, free political prisoners and reveal the fate of tens of thousands of
dissidents who disappeared in the 1980s.