More deaths reported in Syrian protest crackdowns


DAMASCUS (BNO NEWS) — At least 19 people were killed on Friday when security forces opened fire on demonstrators during nationwide protests in Syria, activists said.

Thousands of Syrians participated on Friday in protests across the country, a weekly event, with particularly massive gatherings in the western city of Hama and the northeastern city of Deir Ezzor. According to CNN, activists reported at least 12 and as many as 19 deaths.

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria reported 19 deaths, but didn’t say where they occurred. Another group, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least 12 deaths occurred – eight in Damascus, three in Idlib, and one in Daraa in the south. Dozens of injuries were also reported.

Meanwhile, state TV reported “armed groups” killed a resident of Idlib in the northwest and wounded two security force members in the Jawbar suburb of Damascus. It also said such groups opened fire on security forces and citizens in the Damascus neighborhood of Qaboun.

For its part, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said military and security forces are protecting demonstrators from the presence of armed groups in the southern province of Daraa. CNN, however, is not able to independently verify the reports.

Protesters have been staging nationwide demonstrations every Friday after Muslim prayers. Today’s protest was “Free Detainees Friday”, a call for the release of those jailed since the anti-government protests began in mid-March.

The overall death toll since the unrest began is 1,431 civilians and 352 army and security personnel killed, the observatory said as reported by CNN.

In mid-March, pro-democracy demonstrations began in Syria and have continued across the country, which has been ruled by the Baath Party since 1963. Protesters are demanding the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, who took over his father in 2000.

Assad previously said that the recent events in the country are a conspiracy against national unity. The Syrian government has repeatedly claimed that the violent acts have been instigated by terrorists who use military uniforms and weaponry to pose as soldiers while attacking citizens.

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