Syrian security forces arrest more protesters

Posted on April 2, 2011


April 3, 2011 – 3:59AM


Syrian security forces arrested 37 people on Saturday, a day after nine people were killed as thousands of pro-reform protesters took to the streets.

The wave of raids targeted the southern town of Daraa, one of the main centres of more than two weeks of demonstrations, as well as Douma north of Damascus and the northern industrial city of Homs.

“There is an arrest campaign and dozens have been detained,” a resident of Douma, 15km from the capital, where violence the previous day killed at least nine and left scores wounded, told AFP.

He added the agricultural town was calm despite security forces withholding some of the corpses from the previous day’s violence in an apparent bid to prevent funerals from sparking fresh protests.

Families decided against burying four of the dead on Saturday although life in the city was back to normal, with shops open and a “usual” deployment of security forces.

A witness told AFP security forces had used live ammunition to break up stone-throwing protesters after weekly Muslim prayers on Friday.

Syrian authorities denied the security forces were responsible for the deaths, blaming them on an “armed group” which opened fire from rooftops in the town on both demonstrators and police officers.

They acknowledged there were an unspecified number of deaths and said dozens were wounded, some of them police.

State television charged that “some of the demonstrators had daubed their clothes with red dye to make foreign reporters believe that they had been injured”.

Some 200 people demonstrated outside the courthouse of Daraa, a tribal town near the border with Jordan, where security forces arrested eight people between a morning raid and a roundup after protests, an activist told AFP.

A 20-year-old who was killed by security forces during a protest in Sanamein, just outside Daraa, was to be buried in nearby Inkhel, a human rights activist said.

He was one among as many as three people killed during Friday’s protest in the village. The official SANA news agency said a soldier was also seriously wounded in Daraa itself when young men tried to snatch his weapon.

Ahead of the funeral, security forces carried out a series of raids in the area, another activist said, adding that architect Khaled al-Hassan, lawyer Hassan al-Aswad and teacher Issam Mahameed were among those detained.

In Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented 17 arrests while authorities accused another “armed group” of firing against demonstrators in the industrial city and killing “one girl”.

The rights group demanded the release of all prisoners of conscience as well as political prisoners, and called for measures to ensure the safety of peaceful protest.

Meanwhile, at least 2000 Druze in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights demonstrated on Saturday in a show of support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Israeli news website Ynet reported.

The United Nations and the United States slammed the use of force by security forces against peaceful demonstrators in Syria.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Saturday he was “convinced that there is no alternative to an immediate and inclusive dialogue on comprehensive reforms to address the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”

In addition to the three cities hit by arrests, “Friday of Martyrs” protests were held in the coastal port of Latakia, Darriya, near the capital, and the northeastern Kurdish towns of Qamishli and Amuda.

The United States applauded the “courage and dignity” of demonstrators urging “all parties to maintain calm and avoid violence” and calling on the Syrian government to allow peaceful demonstrations.

“President Bashar al-Assad has a responsibility to promptly take concrete steps and actions that deliver on his promises and advance a meaningful reform agenda,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

© 2011 AFP