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Syrian forces seal off Banias as unrest spreads

Posted by on April 12, 2011 0 Comment

Syrian security forces sealed off the coastal city of Banias following pro-democracy protests and killings by irregulars loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, witnesses said on Monday.

At least four people were killed and 17 wounded when Syrian forces strafed Banias with gunfire for hours on Sunday, witnesses said.

Nine soldiers including two officers were later killed and several soldiers wounded when their patrol was ambushed near the northwestern coastal town, the official SANA news agency reported, updating a previous toll.

Activists and protesters said roads to Banias were blocked. “Electricity has been cut since yesterday. People are very afraid,” Anas Al Shughri, a protest leader, said from Banias. “The army has deployed in Banias with infantry and they have set up checkpoints in and around the city.”

In the capital, students demonstrated at Damascus University’s science college, students on the campus said.

One activist said he received text messages saying security forces had killed one student and surrounded the campus. A pro-government Facebook page said security forces “took control of the security breach”, adding that there were no casualties.

A video on the YouTube website showed a crowd of students coming out of Damascus University building while chanting “God, Syria, freedom.” A witness said Assad loyalists shouted “US agents” at them.

Assad, facing unprecedented protests against his 11-year-old rule, has responded with a mixture of force and promises to move towards reform, including a possible lifting of nearly five decades of emergency law.

Meanwhile, Syrian human rights organisations on Sunday demanded an investigation into the violent clashes in Banias.

“We firmly denounce all forms of violence, regardless of its origin,” said the rights watchdogs in a joint statement. “Protecting the lives of citizens is the state’s responsibility.”

France and Germany, meanwhile, slammed the deadly assaults by security forces on anti-regime protesters and called on President Bashar Al Assad to make good on his promises of reform. Agencies

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