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Syrian Forces Detain Dozens in Latakia


Image taken from amateur video purports to show armored vehicles and troops taking up positions in Latakia on August 15, 2011. (The content and location of this image cannot be independently verified.)

Image taken from amateur video purports to show armored vehicles and troops taking up positions in Latakia on August 15, 2011. (The content and location of this image cannot be independently verified.)

Activists say Syrian security forces have detained hundreds of people in the besieged port city of Latakia, filling a sports stadium because local detention centers were overflowing with prisoners.

A London-based Syrian rights group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Wednesday that more than 700 troops raided homes in Latakia's southern al-Raml district, arresting people on lists.

Activists also said forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad killed nine people in the central city of Homs, including two protesters shot dead in front of a mosque after nightly Ramadan prayers.

Latakia's al-Raml is home to a crowded Palestinian refugee camp where many low-income Syrians also live. United Nations officials say as many as 10,000 residents fled the neighborhood during Syria's four-day operation to crush dissent in the city.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency said Wednesday it has determined the whereabouts of about 2,000 of the displaced people and is providing them with aid.

At least 35 people have been killed in the Latakia crackdown. Syria announced Tuesday it is pulling its military out of the city and that it has also begun to withdraw forces from the eastern town of Deir el-Zour. However, residents said Wednesday that troops remain in the city.

In the capital, Damascus, troops carried out dawn raids in the predominantly Kurdish neighborhood of Rukneddine, where security forces detained dozens after cutting off electricity. A number of anti-government protests had recently taken place in the neighborhood.

Mr. Assad has been facing growing international pressure to end the violent crackdown.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wednesday compared the situation in Syria with that in Libya, noting that Mr. Assad's government continues to kill civilians despite repeated diplomatic intervention. Separately, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called for "the bloodshed" to stop during a joint news conference with his Jordanian counterpart.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the situation in Syria is "galvanizing international opinion" against Mr. Assad's government. She said the U.S. is pushing for stronger sanctions against Syria and hopes countries with closer economic ties to the country will join the efforts.

Meanwhile, the United Nations said it is withdrawing its non-essential personnel from Syria. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council will hold a special session on Syria that will include a briefing from human rights chief Navi Pillay.

Rights groups and activists say at least 1,800 civilians have been killed since the start of the government's crackdown in mid-March.

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

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