Mon, Aug 15, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Latakia blasted, leaders demand end to killings

ONSLAUGHT:Syrian forces came down on the port city on Saturday, including warships, while a rights group said that landlines and Internet connections there were cut

AFP, DAMASCUS

Syrian warships and security forces killed at least 10 people yesterday in an assault on the city of Latakia, activists said, as world leaders demanded a halt to the crushing of anti-regime protests.

Security forces also surged into the Damascus suburbs of Saqba and Hamriya overnight, cutting off communications, firing shots and making arrests, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Warships are attacking Latakia and explosions have been heard in several districts,” the group said, adding that the main target was the Ramleh suburb of the port city where 10 people were killed and 25 others seriously wounded.

On Saturday, the military killed at least two more people and also wounded 15 in the Ramleh area of southern Latakia, a nerve center of anti-regime protests, according to the advocacy group.

“Large numbers of residents, especially women and children” have fled Ramleh, the scene of mass protests calling for the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, it said.

The Observatory said landline telephones and Internet connections with the eastern Mediterranean port city were cut.

Around the capital, “security forces entered Saqba and Hamriya in great numbers and launched a campaign of arrests,” the Britain-based group said.

It said troops arrived in “15 military trucks, eight troop carriers and four jeeps,” launching the assault at around 2am.

“Gunfire was heard in both suburbs,” the Observatory said, adding that landline telephone lines and Internet connections were severed during the military assault.

In a telephone conversation on Saturday, US President Barack Obama and Saudi King Abdullah expressed their “shared, deep concerns about the Syrian government’s use of violence against its citizens,” the White House said in a statement. “They agreed that the Syrian regime’s brutal campaign of violence against the Syrian people must end immediately.”

In a separate phone call, Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron also called for an “immediate” end to the bloodshed which has raged since protests broke out in mid-March.

They reiterated “their deep concern about the Syrian government’s use of violence against civilians and their belief that the Syrian people’s legitimate demands for a transition to democracy should be met,” the White House said.

A spokesman for Downing Street said the two leaders “expressed horror at the brutal reaction of the Syrian regime to legitimate protests, particularly during Ramadan,” the holy month in which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk.

The call came after Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim regional heavyweight, which had remained silent on the five-month revolt, added its voice to a chorus of criticism and recalled its ambassador from Damascus.

The violence has cost more than 2,150 lives, including around 400 members of the security forces, according to rights activists. Syrian authorities have blamed the bloodshed on armed gangs and Islamist militants.

Turkey, which shares a border with Syria and has a large Sunni population, has also expressed growing impatience with Assad’s scorched-earth policy, as has Russia, a longtime Syrian ally.

Washington has steadily ratcheted up the pressure on Damascus, imposing new sanctions and saying Assad has lost all legitimacy, but has so far stopped short of openly calling for him to step down.

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