Syrian tanks on Damascus road, deploy near Rastan

May 4, 2011 17:39

AMMAN - A convoy of 30 Republican Guard tanks and up to 70 trucks filled with soldiers were seen on the circular highway surrounding Damascus at 1000 GMT on Wednesday, a witness told Reuters.

"Each truck had 20 to 30 soldiers. The convoy was either heading north in the direction of Homs or south in the direction of Deraa," said the witness, a former member of the Syrian army who did not want to be further identified.

Residents said tanks and armored personnel carriers had been deploying at the northern edge of the restive town of Rastan, 20 km (12 miles) north of the city of Homs, and 15 km away from its southern entrance since Wednesday morning.

The deployment followed the failure of an overnight meeting between residents and a ruling Baath Party official during which the official demanded the handover of several hundred men in the town. The meeting followed pro-democracy protests on Friday during which security forces killed at least 17 demonstrators, the residents, who included a lawyer in the town, said.

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