Syria regime kills 16 protesters in latest unrest

THE US and Turkey agreed on the need for a “transition to democracy” in Syria today, as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces killed at least 16 people after storming more towns in pursuit of anti-regime protesters.

The White House said that President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also agreed during a phone call on the need for an “immediate halt of all bloodshed and violence against the Syrian people” by forces loyal to Assad.

“The two leaders underscored the urgency of the situation, 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 in a readout of the call.

And US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged China and Russia to step up pressure on Assad.

“We want to see China take steps with us…. We want to see Russia cease selling arms to the Assad regime,” Clinton said in an interview with CBS News.

Meanwhile, Syrian forces killed at least 16 people yesterday, with the army storming more towns in pursuit of anti-regime protesters, defying Western calls for an end to violence.

The killings occurred soon after columns of tanks entered the town of Qusayr in the central province of Homs early yesterday, sending residents fleeing into the fields, rights activist there said.

“Twelve people were killed by the end of military operations” in Qusayr, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Earlier an activist told AFP in Nicosia that “security forces opened fire on residents who tried to flee to the Al-Basateen district.”

Another activist said dozens of people had been wounded, adding that the army “has closed entrances to the town,” while security forces made around “one hundred arrests”, the Observatory reported.

Three other people were shot dead by security forces in the eastern oil hub of Deir Ezzor’s Al-Matar neighbourhood and several houses were torched, the Britain-based rights group said.

Another person was killed in the coastal city of Lattakia where Assad’s forces unleashed another wave of arrests.

Tanks, troop carriers and buses transporting security forces also sped into the town of Saraqeb in the northwestern Idlib province bordering Turkey soon after dawn yesterday, the Observatory reported.

 

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