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Prominent Syrian Cartoonist Attacked, Beaten

Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat works in Damascus, Syria, August 14, 2011 (file photo)

Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat works in Damascus, Syria, August 14, 2011 (file photo)

Syrian security forces have attacked the country's best-known political cartoonist, beating him severely and leaving him hospitalized.

Human rights activists say passers-by found Ali Ferzat on a road outside Damascus on Thursday, after he was kidnapped, beaten and dumped on the side of a street.

A relative of Ferzat told Western media the attackers threatened to break Ferzat's bones as a warning for him to stop from drawing cartoons of government officials.

Bruised and bandaged

The Arabic TV network Al-Jazeera showed a man it identified as Ferzat lying on a hospital bed with his face badly bruised and his hand heavily bandaged.

Through his cartoons, Ferzat has become a noted critic of Syria's government and its five-month crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators and dissent. Some of his drawings have mocked President Bashar al-Assad.

Government crackdown intensifies

In other news, activists say Syrian tanks have been shelling areas near the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, a flashpoint in the five-month-old uprising.

The United Nations says more than 2,000 people have died in Syria during the government's crackdown. Assad has blamed much of the deadly violence on what he calls armed "gangs" and "terrorists."

On Wednesday, the European Union expanded sanctions on Syria to target the elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard for its role in helping Syrian security forces combat the uprising against Assad.

Also Wednesday, Syria's state-run SANA news agency said "armed terrorist groups" kidnapped, tortured and killed 14 citizens in the central city of Homs. SANA also reported that eight Syrian soldiers, including an army officer, were killed Wednesday in attacks on military vehicles in towns near Homs. The reports could not be independently verified.

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