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Syrian Troops Continue Crackdown

  • Ben Gilbert

Syrian soldiers gather at the backyard of the municipality of Duma on the northeastern outskirts of the capital Damascus as rights groups said Syrian security forces killed six people and wounded dozens in raids in the northwest and around the capital, A

Syrian soldiers gather at the backyard of the municipality of Duma on the northeastern outskirts of the capital Damascus as rights groups said Syrian security forces killed six people and wounded dozens in raids in the northwest and around the capital, A

Syria’s security forces continue to crack down on protests in several places, despite international condemnation. Over the weekend, Turkey’s president said Turkey has "lost confidence" in President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Iranian officials also voiced concern at the possible regional implications if the five-month-old uprising is not solved peacefully.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Syrian Local Coordinating Committees say at least five people were killed Monday during a security force siege of the town of Sarameen in Homs province. The town has been the scene of major protests during the past five months.

A video posted on the Internet shows what is said to be an anti-government demonstration in the town Sunday night. The protesters chant “God is great! Freedom!”

Syrian activists say at least one person also was killed in the town of Rastan in Idlib province Monday as tanks and troops moved in. The activists say troops surrounded the town Sunday night as a major anti-regime protest was taking place.

A YouTube video shows hundreds of people gathered in a square in Rastan. Someone waves a Syrian flag as a speaker leads the crowd in chants against Assad.

Because most journalists have been barred from entering Syria, VOA cannot verify the authenticity of the videos.

A resident of Rastan told Reuters news agency that tanks and other armored vehicles deployed early Monday at the entrance to the town and fired long bursts from their machine guns. Residents also told Reuters that some soldiers earlier had defected to join the protesters.

Meanwhile, the Local Coordinating Committees reported that protests continued in the Damascus suburbs and dozens of people had been arrested, especially in Qara and Qadsaya.

Syrian activists say at least 27 people died over the weekend as a result of the security crackdown in protest communities all over Syria.

The United Nations estimates that more than 2,200 mostly unarmed civilians have been killed since Syria’s uprising began in March.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul blasted Syria’s handling of the crisis in remarks Sunday, saying Ankara had lost its confidence in the Syrian authorities. Anatolia news agency quoted him as saying the situation has reached a stage in which any gestures by the Syrian government would be "too little, too late."

Even some Iranian officials have begun to caution their longtime allies in Syria. The Iranian foreign minister on Saturday warned of dangerous implications if the crisis in Syria is not solved peacefully. Ali Akbar Salehi urged the Syrian government to heed its citizen’s "legitimate demands." He said if Syria were to experience a power vacuum it would have "unprecedented repercussions'' in the region.

The comments came as members of the Syrian opposition, meeting in Ankara, Turkey, formed a national transitional council, similar to that of the Libyan opposition. Ninety-four members of the council have been chosen. Half are inside Syria and the rest outside.

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