Syrian forces seal off Banias, sectarian tension mounts

By REUTERS
April 11, 2011 07:03

 
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AMMAN - Syrian security forces sealed off the coastal city of Banias overnight following sectarian killings by irregulars loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, witnesses said on Monday.

Violence in Banias, home to one of Syria's two oil refineries, erupted on Sunday when irregulars from the ruling Alawite minority, known as "shabbiha," fired at residents with automatic rifles from speeding cars, following pro-democracy protests in the mostly Sunni Mediterranean city.

At least three people were killed, a human rights activist in the city told Reuters. The authorities said an armed group had ambushed a patrol near Banias, killing nine soldiers.

Another rights activist said roads to the town were blocked.

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