Five Killed in Crackdown Against Protesters in Syria

Posted September 3rd, 2011 at 5:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Syrian forces continued a crackdown across the country Saturday, with reports of at least five more people killed.

The bloodshed came as the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross was due to meet with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus late Saturday — and as a European Union oil embargo against Damascus went into effect.

EU ministers also warned they would consider further steps against Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemned the EU decision and said that unilateral sanctions do no good and destroy partnerships. However, the U.S. said the embargo sent a powerful message to Mr. Assad's government to end the violence.

Syrian activists said security forces were hunting Saturday for attorney general Adnan Bakkour who — in a video released Wednesday — said he was stepping down to protest the crackdown. But, the government said Bakkour was kidnapped and made the statement under duress.

According to witnesses, government tanks also moved against the town of Telkalakh, near the Lebanese border, while mourners in the Damascus suburb of Douma chanted slogans denouncing the killing of a young protester Friday.

An opposition video on social network Facebook showed mostly young demonstrators in the Diraa suburb of Soura Saturday, protesting the arrests of 40 people by security forces a day earlier. Al-Arabia TV showed Syrian warplanes, saying they broke the sound barrier over the city of Homs to frighten demonstrators.

But Syrian government TV claimed that “biased” foreign TV networks were “inventing videos of demonstrations,” to destabilize the country.

It is impossible to confirm the events, since most foreign journalists are not allowed into the country.

Saturday's violence came a day after activists said at least 17 people were killed by security forces who opened fire on protesters calling for President Bashar al-Assad's resignation.

The United Nations estimates 2,200 people have been killed since March in the government's crackdown. However, Syria has blamed much of the deadly violence on armed gangs and “terrorists.”