Syrian forces kill 11 in swoop on northern towns

Tanks sweep into Qusair, near the Lebanon border; US envoy to Damascus warns Syria of more US sanctions if violence doesn't stop.

Tank sits in Hama, Syria_311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Tank sits in Hama, Syria_311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
AMMAN/HAMA, Syria - Syrian forces killed 11 people in a raid on a northern town on Thursday, activists said, pursuing a military campaign to crush protests against President Bashar Assad despite new US sanctions and regional calls to end the bloodshed.
They said the killings occurred when troops backed by tanks swept into Qusair, near the Lebanon border, after overnight protests calling for Assad's removal. One person was also killed in the coastal city of Latakia.
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Around 14 tanks and armored vehicles also swept into Saraqeb, a town on Syria's main north-south highway that has seen daily demonstrations, and 100 people were arrested by the security forces, residents said by telephone.
Syria's northern towns have been a particular target in recent days of the crackdown on demonstrations calling for Assad's overthrow, inspired by popular revolts against rulers elsewhere in the Arab world.
Officials escorted a group of Turkish reporters around the city of Hama on Thursday after a week-long crackdown. However, Syria has barred most independent journalists since the uprising against 41 years of Assad family rule flared five months ago, making it difficult to verify accounts from both sides of events on the ground.
At least 1,700 civilians have been killed in the unrest, rights groups say, and a series of military assaults on cities and towns since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan 10 days ago has sharpened international condemnation.
The United States ambassador to Damascus warned Syria on Thursday of more US sanctions if violence does not stop, a day after Washington imposed sanctions on a Syrian state bank and on Syria's biggest mobile telephone company.
Regional powers Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have all added pressure on Assad to stop the violence, although no country has proposed the kind of military intervention being carried out by NATO forces against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Syria says 500 soldiers and police have died in the bloodshed, which it blames on armed gangs and terrorists.

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