Mon, Jul 04, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Assad sacks Hama governor after a huge protest rally

AFP, DAMASCUS

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sacked the governor of Hama on Saturday, a day after hundreds of thousands rallied against the regime in the hotbed city, as activists said the latest crackdown cost 28 lives.

Anti-regime dissent billowed on Friday in response to a call by a Facebook group for massive protests to demand the ouster of Assad and his autocratic regime.

In Hama alone, 500,000 people took to the streets, without security forces intervening, activists said, calling it the single largest demonstration of its kind since the pro-democracy movement erupted on March 15.

Assad reacted to the affront by sacking the governor of Hama, a city with a bloody past where an estimated 20,000 people were killed in 1982 when the army put down an Islamist revolt against the rule of his late father, then-president Hafez al-Assad.

“The Syrian president signed a decree today relieving Doctor Ahmad Khaled Abdel Aziz of his post as governor of Hama,” a news flash on state television said.

Most of Friday’s victims were killed in northwest Syria’s Idlib Province, where troops backed by tanks have swept through villages all week to crush dissent.

“Sixteen people were killed” in Idlib on Friday, Ammar Qorabi, the head of the National Organisation for Human Rights, said on Saturday.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said dozens of arrests were made in villages of the Idlib region, including of the top Muslim cleric of Al-Bara.

And at least 20 people were arrested in the Daraya area near Damascus for having taken part in anti-regime protests.

Homs was the focus of a report released on Saturday by the New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW), which denounced a rising death toll there and security forces for “terrorizing people.”

Citing Syrian rights groups and witnesses, HRW said 21 people had been killed in a government crackdown in Homs since June 17.

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