Sat, Dec 31, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Tens of thousands protest in Syria as death toll rises

AFP, DAMASCUS

Syrian forces were accused of firing nail bombs yesterday to disperse protesters as tens of thousands of people flooded streets across the country to make their voices heard to Arab monitors.

Protesters called for the ouster and prosecution of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose autocratic regime has been blamed for the deaths of more than 5,000 people since pro-reform protests erupted in March.

Activists urged monitors, who started a mission this week to implement an Arab League peace plan, to protect civilians from the regime’s wrath.

“We urge you to make a clear distinction between the assassin and the victim,” activists of the Syrian Revolution 2011 said in a statement on their Facebook page.

The death toll rose again yesterday, with at least five civilians killed by gunfire as Syrian forces dispersed crowds of protesters around the country, while four people died in an ambush by government troops, a watchdog said.

Huge demonstrations rocked northwestern Idlib Province and Douma, a Damascus suburb where protesters clashed with security forces who fired “nail bombs” to disperse them, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

At least 24 protesters were hurt when security forces fired “nail bombs to disperse tens of thousands of demonstrators in Douma,” the watchdog said, adding that the protesters “hurled stones” in retaliation.

In Douma, security forces also fired “stun grenades and tear gas” at protesters as 60,000 to 70,000 demonstrators headed to city hall, where Arab League observers visited the previous day.

It was the “biggest ever demonstration” in the restive suburb since March, it added.

Further north in Idlib Province, which borders Turkey, more than 250,000 protesters took the streets in various locations, the Observatory reported.

In the southern province of Daraa, cradle of the pro-democracy protests, five civilians were shot dead when security forces opened fire on crowds of protesters.

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