7 Killed in Syrian Protests During Holiday

Posted August 30th, 2011 at 12:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Syrian forces have killed seven people after opening fire on protesters on the first day of the Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

Activists say the deadly crackdown on dissent Tuesday came after thousands of people poured onto streets across Syria with renewed calls for President Bashar al-Assad's departure.

The opposition's local coordination committees say the deaths occurred in two southern towns and the central city of Homs, after worshippers finished morning prayers marking Eid al-Fitr.

On Monday, rights activists said forces killed six people during raids in towns where there had been anti-Assad protests.

Meanwhile, international condemnation of the Assad government's crackdown continues to grow.

The United States announced Tuesday that it is widening its sanctions on Syria to include Foreign Minister Walid Muallem. The new asset-freezes and bans on business interactions also target the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdul Karim Ali, and presidential adviser Bouthaina Shaaban.

Earlier Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressed deep concern about what she called the Syrian government's violence against peaceful demonstrators and rights activists.

A statement released by her office cited a Saturday attack on worshippers leaving a mosque and last week's attack on political cartoonist Ali Ferzat, who was kidnapped and severely beaten by assailants near Damascus.

The Syrian government has blamed much of the country's violence on what it calls armed gangs and terrorists.

The United Nations says more than 2,200 people have been killed since March, when protesters began calling for reforms and an end to Mr. Assad's 11-year autocratic rule.