Syrian Troops Seize Control of Northern Town

Posted June 12th, 2011 at 3:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Syria says its troops have seized control of a northern city near the Turkish border, as nations across the globe condemn the government's brutal crackdown on protesters.

Western media report that troops and Syrian television say the army overtook Jisr al-Shughour late Sunday. Rights activists in Syria say troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships had launched a heavy assault on the city from two sides.

Witnesses heard blasts as the army moved into position inside the town.

Syrian state media say government troops entered the city after defusing explosives planted by gunmen on roads and bridges. The government has accused “armed gangs” in Jisr al-Shughour of killing security personnel, and it says troops are moving into the city to confront the groups.

The town has been the focus of military operations for days. Thousands of people have fled into Turkey to escape the bloodshed.

France on Sunday strongly condemned the “increasingly brutal repression” in Syria, including the use of heavy weapons in Jisr al-Shughour.

British Foreign Minister William Hague also denounced the violence but said the prospects of passing a U.N. resolution condemning the Syrian government were “on a knife's edge” .

U.N. diplomats have held talks on a draft resolution condemning the violence, but they have failed to reach agreement. Many Western nations support the measure, but Russia and China have voiced opposition.

Germany's foreign minister on Sunday denounced the Syrian government's crackdown in the north and demanded that it “stop the violence immediately.” Both Germany and the U.S. have called on Syria to allow humanitarian and aid workers to help those in crisis areas.

A White House statement on Saturday accused the Syrian government of creating a humanitarian crisis in northern Syria, and called on Syrian authorities to give the ICRC “immediate, unfettered access” to this region.

Also Saturday, mourners across Syria buried at least 32 people killed during rallies against President Bashar al-Assad's government a day earlier.

Activists say security forces opened fire on demonstrators in several cities. They say at least seven protesters were killed in the town of Latakia as they tried to tear down a giant poster of Mr. Assad.

Rights groups say more than 1,200 people have been killed in the Syrian crackdown that began in March and more than 10,000 people have been arrested.