Syrian soldiers leaving Deraa 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Syrian security forces on Friday took over the northwestern city of Maarat al-Numaan, days after laying siege to it, the Associated Press reported citing local activists.
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Rights activist Mustafa Osso told AP that large numbers of soldiers backed by tanks and helicopter gunships entered the town, but it was not immediately clear if there were any casualties in the operation.
Omar Idilbi of the Local Coordination Committees which monitors anti-government protests in Syria said that soldiers were in full control of the town.
A Syrian military official was quoted by the official SANA news agency as saying the army has amassed troops near Maarat al-Numaan and Khan Sheikhon to prevent "armed terrorist organizations" from blocking highway between Aleppo and Damascus.
The Maarat al-Numaan operation comes as opposition groups have called for protests on Friday throughout the country, saying it was the "The Day of Saleh al-Ali," in reference to an Alawite leader who led an uprising agains the French in the 20th century.
Opposition groups have been naming each Friday since the uprising began
13 weeks ago, but according to AP, using the name of an Alawite leader
was meant to show that opponents to Assad were not revolting over
Alawite dominance of Syria under the Assad regime has triggered
resentment in the country, which Assad has tried to mitigate by
encourage a "strictly secular identity in Syria," AP said. However, the
Syrian President now seems to be depending on his Alawite support to
clamp down on the resistance, according to the report.