Syrian Forces Kill 7 as Eid Festival Begins

Posted August 30th, 2011 at 8:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Activists say Syrian troops have killed at least seven people — including a 13-year-old boy — emerging from mosques on the first day of the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

Tuesday's bloodshed took place at the start of the Eid al-Fitr festival in southern Daraa province, the central city of Homs and the capital, Damascus. Activists say protests calling for President Bashar al-Assad's ouster have grown more frequent since the fall of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

An opposition group, the Syrian Revolution Coordinating Union, said Syrian forces killed 551 people during Ramadan and that 130 others died on July 31 – the eve of the holy month – in a tank assault on the city of Hama.

Also Tuesday, Amnesty International said it believes at least 88 people, including 10 children, have died in detention during the five-month anti-government uprising. The rights group said 52 of them suffered some form of torture that likely contributed to their deaths. Before the uprising, its researchers typically recorded about five deaths per year in custody.

Meanwhile, the United States announced Tuesday 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.

A State Department spokeswoman said the three were targeted because of their role in propagating what she called the “reign of terror” that Mr. Assad has unleashed on his people.

Also 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.

European diplomats said earlier that sanctions may be imposed on Syrian banks, energy and telecommunications companies within a week, along with a planned embargo on Syria's oil exports.

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.