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September 13, 2011

Syria Defies Arab League, Fires on Villages

Syrian rights activists say security forces have opened fire in northwestern villages Wednesday in an ongoing effort to crush dissent as the government rejected an Arab League demand for an end to the crackdown.

Rights activists say government troops fired heavy machine guns during raids on several villages in Idlib province near the Turkish border. They say security forces cut local communications, blocked roads and made arrests.

Syrian state news agency SANA says Syrian ambassador to the Arab League Youssef Ahmed rejected the body's latest statement on the Syrian crisis as a "hostile and unconstructive act."

Arab League foreign ministers met in Cairo Tuesday and called on Damascus to stop violence in the country immediately and launch a national dialogue. SANA says Syrian envoy Ahmed told the meeting that Damascus is moving ahead with a reform process.

Syrian rights activists say security forces also fired tear gas at mourners who gathered in a Damascus suburb late Tuesday to pay respects to the family of a dissident killed last week. They say the attack happened after U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford and diplomats of other nations offered condolences at the gathering and left the venue.

In other violence, SANA reported the killings of seven people by what it calls armed terrorist groups. It says five soldiers and a civilian were buried Wednesday after being attacked in the provinces of Idlib and Homs, while a bus driver was killed in an ambush in the central city of Hama.

The United Nations estimates that 2,600 people have been killed in Syria's six-month-long uprising against the 11-year autocratic rule of President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian government said Monday about 1,400 have been killed, half of them security personnel.

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

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