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Middle East
Thousands attend Syria protesters' funerals
Mourners call for overthrow of President Assad a day after at least 30 demonstrators were killed by security forces.
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2011 15:00
Thousands marched in Homs on Monday as three group funerals were held for victims killed overnight [Reuters]

Tens of thousands of Syrians have attended the funerals for protesters killed in the central city of Homs, chanting slogans demanding the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad, the country's president.

Rights activists say security forces killed at least 25 pro-democracy protesters in Homs on Sunday night as anti-government demonstrations flared across the country, claiming up to 30 lives.

Witnesses said mourners chanted "From alleyway to alleyway, from house to house, we want to overthrow you, Bashar," and "Either freedom or death, the people want to topple this regime".

The protest was the largest to hit the strategically important city, Syria's third largest, since protests in the country began one month ago.

A protester told Al Jazeera that the first killing took place after evening prayers on Sunday when a group of around 40 demonstrators gathered outside the Bab al-Sibaa mosque chanting "freedom".

The protester, who gave his name as Abu Haider, said seven cars pulled up to the protesters and men in civilian clothes jumped out and opened fire on the crowd without warning.

"First we were calling for reforms, now we're calling for regime change," he said. "No one will accept the death of the martyrs."

More clashes feared

Al Jazeera's correspondent Rula Amin, in Damascus, reported that the situation in Homs was very tense on Monday.

"People are complaining that many of the wounded are not going to the hospital, they fear that the security forces will pick them up from their hospital bed," she said.

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"There is also a shortage of blood according to the people we have been talking to.

"People are concerned that clashes might erupt following the [funeral] processions."

She said there was also tension in the nearby town of Talbiseh, where five of the deaths occurred.

"The government says that gunmen had been going near the highway blocking the road.

"When security forces went to control the situation, they were attacked by the gunmen. One policeman was killed and another one injured, and three gunmen were killed."

The government and the opposition were trading blame over the heightened tensions and deadly clashes.

"The [accounts of] the government and the protesters vary. It is very hard to get information from there because there are no journalists there to verify what is happening," our correspondent said.

The latest clashes came two days after Assad said Syria's decades-long emergency laws would be lifted within a week and also promised a number of other reforms.

Despite the apparent concessions, activists had called for protests across nationwide on Sunday, which was Syria's Independence Day, commemorating the departure of the last French soldier 65 years ago.

The Damascus Declaration, an opposition umbrella group, called for peaceful protests in all cities and abroad to "bolster Syria's popular uprising and ensure its continuity".

In a statement posted on its website, the Damascus Declaration said the government was responsible for killing and wounding hundreds of Syrians who have been exercising their legitimate rights in the past month.

"The regime alone stands fully responsible for the blood of martyrs and all that will happen next in the country,'' the statement said.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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