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November 14, 2011

Syrian Activists: 83 People Killed in Anti-Government Uprising

A Syrian rights group says government security forces in Syria have killed more than 80 people in the last 24 hours, making it one of the deadliest spans of an eight-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Mousab Azzawi, Coordinator of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in London, speaks with VOA's Susan Yackee about more deaths occured today:

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday it documented the killings of 38 civilians and 18 suspected army defectors in Daraa province on Monday.  The group also reported several deaths in Hama Monday and said many other people were killed in Homs, including several whose bodies were found dumped in the street with signs of torture.

The rights group added that the Syrian Free Army, composed of military defectors, says its forces killed at least 34 government soldiers in fighting Monday.

A Look At Syria's Main Opposition Groups

  • Syrian National Council:

    Turkey-based coalition of varying ideologies is Syria's largest opposition grouping. Secular dissident Bourhan Ghalioun announced the council's formation in October and said it rejects foreign intervention. Rejects dialogue with President Bashar al-Assad's government and has been urging him to resign. Has created a general assembly, a general secretariat and an executive committee whose members will chair the council on a rotating basis.

  • National Coordination Committee:

    Primarily based in Syria. Wants the government to enact reforms though dialogue and by building new civilian institutions. Headed by Hassan Abdul-Azim, who has been demanding an end to President Assad's crackdown as a condition for any dialogue between the government and the opposition.

  • Free Syrian Army:

    Comprises thousands of military defectors. Formed initially to protect civilians but has shown an increased willingness to go on the offensive against pro-government forces.

There was no independent confirmation of the casualties because Syria bars most foreign journalists from the country. Syrian rights activists say about 200 other people were killed this month in the government's crackdown on dissent, many of them in the central city of Homs.

In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country no longer expects Assad to meet the demands of the Syrian people. He again condemned the recent attacks on Turkish diplomatic missions in Syria and he called on the Syrian government to apologize.

Turkey's energy minister said the country has halted plans with Damascus to jointly explore six oil wells within Syria, as tensions continue to rise between the two neighbors.

In Moscow, leaders of the main Syrian opposition council met with Russian leaders. Interfax news agency reports the Syrian National Council urged Russia to demand that President Assad step down.  

The Russian Foreign Ministry urged all opposition groups that shun violence to join the Arab League initiative to start a dialogue between Syria's government and opposition leaders.

Russia and China have so far blocked any moves in the U.N. Security Council to condemn Assad's government.

Jordan's King Abdullah Monday became the first Arab leader to publicly urge Syria's president to step down. Jordan was among the 18 Arab League members that voted Saturday to suspend Syria's membership because of the government's continued deadly crackdown on political opposition.

Syria's suspension from the league will take effect Wednesday, the same day Arab foreign ministers are due to meet in Morocco to discuss the situation.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem blasted the Arab League action, saying Monday that it was illegal and a dangerous step.

The United Nations says at least 3,500 people have been killed in connection with Syria's anti-government uprising since March.  Syria blames much of the violence on foreign-backed terrorists and religious extremists.

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

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