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Pro-Government Gunmen Fire on Syrian Villages


A tank in the Syrian port city of Banias, April 10, 2011, after security forces sealed off the city overnight

A tank in the Syrian port city of Banias, April 10, 2011, after security forces sealed off the city overnight

Pro-government gunmen in Syria have fired shots in at least one village near the coastal city of Banias, the site of recent deadly anti-government protests.

Witnesses say the gunmen launched an attack in the northwestern village of Baida on Tuesday. The Associated Press quotes an opposition leader who says pro-government forces have also entered the nearby village of Beit Jnad.

The army has sealed off Banias, where security forces and pro-government gunmen killed four protesters and wounded dozens on Sunday. The French news agency reports people are experiencing a shortage of bread along with electricity and phone outages.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch says Syrian security forces prevented wounded protesters from receiving medical treatment following anti-government demonstrations last week.

Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch speaks with VOA Middle East Monitor host Susan Yackee about the group's findings in Syria:

The U.S.-based rights group said Tuesday that Syrian authorities did not allow ambulances to pick up protesters wounded in the towns of Daraa and Harasta.

At least 26 protesters were killed in Daraa when plain clothes security forces opened fire on demonstrators in and around the city on Friday.

The White House on Tuesday said it was "deeply concerned" by reports that the Syrian government is denying medical care to wounded protesters. It called the Syrian government crackdown "outrageous."

Syrian authorities blamed armed groups for the violence.

Anti-government protests erupted in Syria more than three weeks ago and have been spreading.

Demonstrators are calling for sweeping political reforms, particularly an end to the country's decades-old emergency law that gives the government a free hand to stamp out public protests, ban opposition and justify arbitrary arrests.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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