News / Middle East

    Syrian Forces Fire on Demonstrators, Activists Say

    Mourners attend the funerals of protesters killed in earlier clashes in the Syrian city of Homs, April 18, 2011
    Mourners attend the funerals of protesters killed in earlier clashes in the Syrian city of Homs, April 18, 2011

    Human rights activists say Syrian security forces have opened fire on hundreds of demonstrators in the main square of the country's third-largest city,

    The activists say police opened fire on the protesters in Sa'a Jadida (New Clock) Square in the central town of Homs overnight.

    It is not clear if anyone was wounded in the shooting.

    Hundreds of demonstrators had gathered in the square Monday intending to hold a sit-in until their demands for an an end to the country's decades-old emergency laws were met.

    The standoff in Homs followed funeral processions attended by more than 10,000 mourners for at least 12 people killed in clashes on Sunday.

    Syria's Interior Ministry called the country's unrest an "armed insurrection" by what it said are radical "Salafist organizations."  The Salafi movement espouses an ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam with roots in Saudi Arabia that can be found throughout the region.

    Syrian authorities often have said their country is the target of a conspiracy.  They blame the violence on armed gangs and infiltrators supplied with weapons from Lebanon and Iraq.

    Human rights groups say more than 200 people have been killed during the government's crackdown on protests.

    Syria has been ruled by the Assad family since 1970, when the current president's father, Hafez al-Assad, became head of state.  He died in 2000, leaving Bashar al-Assad to lead the country.

    The emergency laws effectively limit most constitutional protections for individual citizens in Syria by banning demonstrations, controlling the media and allowing eavesdropping.  They have been in effect for nearly 50 years.

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

     

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