Syrian security forces fire on mourners

Three demonstrators killed in northwest of the country during funeral procession for protesters killed on Friday.

    Video apparently reveals new shocking evidence of the Syrian government's shoot-to-kill policy

    Syrian security forces have killed at least three demonstrators in the country's northwest on a day more than 100,000 mourners turned out for the funerals of protesters killed in the city of Hama, rights groups say.

    Security forces opened fire to scatter demonstrators in Jesr al-Shoughour on Saturday who were protesting after the funeral of a civilian killed in protests the day before in the nearby village of Has, in Idlib province.

    Abu Khaled, a Syrian activist, told Al Jazeera that the level of violence in the crackdown on protests was "beyond imagination".

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    Abu Khaled, who transferred injured protesters from Jesh al-Shoughour to Antakya, a city located 25km away across the border in Turkey, said: "Today we had massacres [...]. It's beyond imagination the Syrian regime used army and intelligence elements and gangs and thugs to hurt the city."

    Tanks rolled toward Hama, reaching the outskirts of the city late Saturday hours after a funeral procession through streets lined with shuttered shops and uniformed security forces, witnesses said.

    In 1982, the city was the scene of a brutal crackdown that left around 20,000 people dead when the Muslim Brotherhood rose up against the late Hafez al-Assad, father of Bashar al-Assad, the current president.

    Funeral attendance

    Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said more than 100,000 people attended the funerals of at least 53 people killed during the previous day's protests, all but five of them in Hama.

    Activists had called Friday's protests over the deaths of dozens of children in anti-government protests, including 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib, who activists say was tortured to death, a charge the authorities deny.

    Describing the violence, the London-based independent rights group said security forces shot into a crowd of more than 50,000 people gathered for the biggest rally in the central Syrian city since protests erupted in mid-March.

    Elsewhere, two people were killed in Homs, a city 40km from Hama, while another two were killed in nearby Rastan, Abdel Rahman said. One more person was killed as security forces opened fire in Idlib.

    Syria's official press said 20 people were killed on Friday, including police, security agents and civilians "by shots fired by armed groups".

    In Hama, police killed three "saboteurs" as they set a government building alight, state television said, and claimed that 80 security force members were injured.

    State television said on Friday that armed groups, taking advantage of a crowd of "nearly 10,000" in Hama, opened fire on civilians and the security forces.

    Internet shutdown

    One resident of Hama said internet access remained cut off on Saturday, while users elsewhere said online services had been restored after a cut of more than 24 hours.

    The US expressed concern at the internet shutdown, warning the Assad government that trying to silence protesters "cannot prevent the transition currently taking place."

    "We are deeply concerned by reports that Internet service has been shut down across much of Syria, as have some mobile communication networks," Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said in a statement.

    "We condemn any effort to suppress the Syrian people's exercise of their rights to free expression, assembly, and association."

    Separately, in a condemnation of Friday's killings, Alistair Burt, the UK foreign office minister, said: "The Syrian government has shown an abhorrent disregard for human life as ordinary Syrians took to the streets in memory of the innocent children who have died during the unrest."

    Heightened crackdown

    Rights groups say more than 1,100 civilians have been killed and at least 10,000 arrested since protests began.

    Ban Ki-moon, the UN chief, has expressed alarm at the heightened crackdown.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights's Abdel Rahman said another 60 people were detained on Friday during a demonstration in Baniyas.

    But among hundreds released since al-Assad announced an amnesty on Tuesday, Ali Abdullah, 61, an opposition figure and writer, walked free on Saturday, the group said.

    Also released were Muhannad al-Hasni, a lawyer who heads an unlicensed rights group, and Meshaal al-Tamo, the leader of a banned Kurdish party, the Observatory said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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