5 Troops Killed in Syria Clashes

Posted October 17th, 2011 at 9:55 am (UTC-5)
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Syrian activists say clashes between security forces and gunmen believed to be army defectors have killed five government troops.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday the fighting occurred near a town in Homs province.

Clashes between government troops and suspected army defectors have been increasing in the province, as the authorities press a harsh crackdown on political opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.

From Switzerland Monday, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon urged President Assad to end the killing of civilians during the crackdown and accept an international inquiry into allegations of human rights abuses.

The United Nations says more than 3,000 people have been killed in Syria since anti-government protests began seven months ago.

The Arab League said late Sunday it would bring together Syria's government and opposition groups in an attempt to end the violence.

The league's secretary-general said the group plans to start the dialogue within 15 days. He spoke after an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo.

Some league members sought to suspend Syria's membership in the pan-Arab organization, but deep divisions among the group's 22 members prevented passage of the proposal.

The Arab League suspended Libya earlier this year after then-leader Moammar Gadhafi began a bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters. The league later reinstated Libya under the country's new leadership.

In Syria Sunday, activists said security forces in the east opened fire on mourners as about 7,000 people attending the funeral of a slain activist with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. They also said government forces continued arrests near the capital, Damascus.

Syrian authorities have blamed much of the country's violence on gunmen or what they call terrorist groups.