/ 22 April 2011

Nearly 40 killed in Syria protests

At least 38 protesters were killed by security forces during massive demonstrations on Friday across Syria, in one of the bloodiest days since pro-democracy protests erupted in mid-March, witnesses and activists said.

The toll has been steadily rising throughout the day, according to the sources in Nicosia, with early reports speaking of at least 15 dead and that figure more than doubling by the late afternoon.

Dozens of people were also wounded when security forces opened fire with live rounds to disperse protesters who took to the streets in several cities in response to calls for “Good Friday” rallies, they said.

At least 14 people were killed in the town of Ezreh, in the southern province of Daraa, epicentre of pro-reform and anti-regime protests that broke out in mid-March, the sources said.

One person was killed in Hirak, also in the Daraa region.

Nine people died in the northern Damascus suburb of Douma, the sources added.

And six people were also killed in the Damascus neighbourhoods of Barzeh, Harasta and Al-Maadamiyah.

Two people were also killed in the northern city of Hama, site of a government-sponsored massacre of Islamists in 1982, and two others perished in the main Syrian port city of Latakia, while four died in central Homs.

Earlier other human rights activists spoke of several people killed and wounded in Homs, as well as in the Damascus neighbourhoods of Al-Maadamiyah, Zamalkah and Kabun.

The state news agency Sana reported that security forces “intervened” and fired tear gas and water cannon “to prevent clashes between protesters and citizens and protect public property.”

“There were some wounded in these confrontations,” which Sana said took place in Harasta and Hajar Asswad near Damascus, as well as in Hama and Hasaka in the northeast.

Thousands of protesters swarmed the mainly Kurdish city of Qamishli in northeastern Syria, while demonstrations also shook Banias in the north and Daraa.

The protests come despite decrees on Thursday by President Bashar al-Assad scrapping nearly five decades of draconian emergency rule and abolishing state security courts that operated outside the normal judicial system to try people seen challenging the regime. — AFP