Sat, Oct 08, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Syria troops clash with deserters as death toll soars

AFP, DAMASCUS

Clashes between troops and deserters killed 12 people on Thursday, activists said, as Western powers sought to pressure Syria over its crackdown on dissent that the UN says has cost more than 2,900 lives.

“Seven soldiers and five deserters or civilians were killed in the clashes in villages west of Jabal al-Zawiya,” near the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that 32 people were wounded.

The Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees, an activist network opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said soldiers and security forces raided the villages in Idlib Governorate backed by tanks.

Four people died in similar clashes earlier in the week between Syrian troops and deserters — who defected after refusing to fire on anti-regime protesters — also near the Turkish border, rights activists said.

An army officer who has taken refuge in Turkey, Colonel Riad al-Asaad, claims to have established an opposition armed force called the “Syrian Free Army,” but its strength and numbers are unknown.

Analysts warn that the unrest in Syria, which began in mid-March as peaceful protests against Assad’s autocratic rule, is becoming increasingly armed in response to the relentless gunning down of protesters by security forces.

The UN said on Thursday it estimates the crackdown has killed more than 2,900 people since mid-March, but warns that the figure could rise to take into account those reported missing.

“The total number of people killed since protests began in Syria now stands at more than 2,900,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said, a day before the rights body was due to discuss the crisis.

Pro-democracy activists have called for fresh demonstrations for yesterday under the banner: “The Syrian National Council is our representative, mine, yours and that of all Syrians.”

In the village of Dael, in the southern region of Daraa, more than 15,000 people at the funeral of a 17-year-old youth chanted slogans against Assad’s regime.

Syrian troops entered Lebanese territory on Thursday and shot dead a Syrian farmer living in a remote border area of the eastern Bekaa region, a Lebanese security official said.

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