Dozens killed in Syria despite Arab League initiative

Assad's violent crackdown on opposition continues in Homs despite agreement to pull military out of cities.

By REUTERS, OREN KESSLER
November 3, 2011 21:07
1 minute read.
Syrian soldiers man tank (illustrative)

Syrian Tank 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Dozens of people were killed in the central Syrian city of Homs on Thursday, activists said, a day after the government agreed to pull the military out of cities as part of an Arab League initiative to end unrest.

After seven months of street protests demanding the removal of President Bashar Assad, and a nascent armed insurgency against his rule, Syria agreed on Wednesday to an Arab League plan to withdraw the army from cities, release political prisoners and hold talks with the opposition.

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Assad's critics have dismissed his past offers of dialogue as insincere, saying the killing must stop before any meaningful talks can take place. The main opposition National Council has not commented on Syria's acceptance of the Arab League plan.

In Syria, residents and activists said there were no signs so far of any troop pullout, and security operations continued.

Thursday's violence followed sectarian killings this week that raised tensions between majority Sunni residents and the minority Alawite sect.

A witness, who declined to be named, said he saw dozens of civilian bodies at the National Hospital which is under the control of the security forces. The circumstances of their deaths were unclear.

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Activists said a further 19 people were killed in tank shelling of the Bab Amro district, a hotbed of pro-democracy protests against Assad, and in shooting by security forces elsewhere in Homs.

Syria has banned independent media from Homs, making it hard to verify events on the ground and reports of bloodshed.

Local activists said forces loyal to Assad shot dead at least 11 Sunni Muslim villagers they had stopped at a roadblock northwest of Homs on Wednesday.

Assad is a member of the minority Alawite sect which dominates power in Sunni-majority Syria.

There was no independent confirmation of the killings, but they follow a report by an activist in Homs that nine Alawites had been dragged from a bus and killed near the city on Tuesday.

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