Syria Widens Protest Crackdown, Two Killed

Posted August 13th, 2011 at 11:55 am (UTC-5)
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Syrian security forces have stormed into the coastal city of Latakia and towns near the Lebanese border.

Activists and witnesses say tanks rolled into Latakia on Saturday, a day after thousands of anti-government protesters rallied in the city.

Activists say at least two people were killed on Saturday, when gunfire rang through some districts of the city.

Also, the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is apparently widening its crackdown on dissent in the Qusair region. Residents say security forces on Saturday swept into several towns in the area, which is near the border with Lebanon.

Saturday's unrest comes a day after security forces killed at least 19 people across the country. Activists and witnesses say most of the deaths occurred after demonstrators took to the streets and renewed calls for Mr. Assad's resignation.

The government has blamed armed groups for much of the country's violence. On Saturday, state media reports said funerals were held for three security officers who were killed by “armed terrorists” near Damascus and the central city of Homs.

Meanwhile, Damascus is facing growing international pressure to halt the violence against civilians and seek political reforms.

The United Nations Security Council plans to meet on Thursday to consider further action against the Syrian government. Earlier this month, the Security Council issued a statement condemning Syria for attacks on civilians and widespread human rights violations.

On Saturday, one of the world's largest Muslim inter-governmental organizations urged Syria to exercise restraint. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation also offered to play a role in dialogue in Syria.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul called on Mr. Assad to implement reforms before it is too “late.” Turkish media reports relayed Mr. Gul's comments on Friday.

Also Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged countries giving Syria economic and political support to “get on the right side of history.”

U.S. officials have estimated that more than 2,000 people have been killed in the months-long effort to suppress dissent in the country.

Details of events in Syria are difficult to independently verify because the government allows very few foreign news reporters into the country and restricts their movements.