Middle East News
At least 16 killed as Syria protesters dispersed by force
Apr 22, 2011, 14:49 GMT
Damascus/Cairo - At least 16 people were killed during anti-government protests in Syria on Friday, activists said, as thousands took to the streets demanding greater freedoms.
According to the Syria Revolution Facebook group, Mohammed al-Kaheel and 17-year-old Motaz Roba were shot dead in the city of Homs on Friday.
According to broadcaster Al Jazeera, another seven people were killed in Azraa town, around 30 kilometres away from Daraa city.
Another seven were killed in the capital Damascus, a Syrian activist told the German Press Agency dpa.
Activists also reported that at least 50 people were injured in Daraa, which has seen the most violent crackdown on protesters since demonstrations began on March 15.
Dozens were also injured as security tried to disperse protesters by force in different cities in the country.
A resident in Damascus, who requested anonymity, said that in some areas security had used tear gas and live ammunition against demonstrators.
But Syrian member of parliament Khaled Aboud told Al Jazeera that 'this is a conspiracy against Syria' and that '90 per cent of Syrians' do not believe reports by the Qatar-based news network.
Thousands took to the streets after weekly Friday prayers following President Bashar al-Assad's move this week to formally lift a 48-year-old state of emergency.
Videos posted online on Friday showed protesters tearing apart posters of al-Assad. Protesters were seen carrying long flags, banners that read 'Point your gun to my body as you wish, I will not let go of my demands' and 'Syrian media is lying.'
'To all the demonstrators today, please carry signs with slogans that are clear with the just demands advocated by the revolution,' activists urged protesters as they organized rallies using social networking websites.
They also called on protesters to remove images and statues of al-Assad and his late father along the way. Protesters were also asked to document their moves 'with pictures and videos that have an appropriate degree of clarity.'
Christian churches across the country cancelled outdoor Good Friday services and street processions ahead of the protests.
According to New York-based Human Rights Watch, al-Assad's decision to lift the state of emergency should be accompanied by concrete measures to halt grave daily human rights violations being committed by the security forces.
'The reforms will only be meaningful if Syria's security services stop shooting, detaining, and torturing protesters,' said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
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