Syrian Activists: 83 People Killed in Anti-Government Uprising

Posted November 15th, 2011 at 2:20 pm (UTC-5)
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A Syrian rights group says government security forces in Syria have killed more than 80 people in the last 24 hours, making it one of the deadliest spans of an eight-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA Tuesday it documented the killings of 38 civilians and 18 suspected army defectors in Daraa province on Monday. The group also reported several deaths in Hama Monday and said many other people were killed in Homs, including several whose bodies were found dumped in the street with signs of torture.

The rights group added that the Syrian Free Army, composed of military defectors, says its forces killed at least 34 government soldiers in fighting Monday.

There was no independent confirmation of the casualties because Syria bars most foreign journalists from the country. Syrian rights activists say about 200 other people were killed this month in the government's crackdown on dissent, many of them in the central city of Homs.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon again urged Syria's president to “stop the killing his own people.”

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday strongly condemned the recent attacks on foreign embassies and missions in Syria and called on the government to protect diplomatic areas. Turkish missions were targeted across the country, along with the embassies of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country no longer expects Mr. Assad to meet the demands of the Syrian people. He again condemned the recent attacks on Turkish diplomatic missions in Syria and he called on the Syrian government to apologize.

Turkey's energy minister said the country has halted plans with Damascus to jointly explore six oil wells within Syria, as tensions continue to rise between the two neighbors. He also implied Turkey might cut back its electricity supply to Syria if the violence does not stop.

In Moscow, leaders of the main Syrian opposition council met with Russian leaders. Interfax news agency reports the Syrian National Council urged Russia to demand that President Assad step down.

The Russian Foreign Ministry urged all opposition groups that shun violence to join the Arab League initiative to start a dialogue between Syria's government and opposition leaders.

Russia and China last month blocked a move in the U.N. Security Council to condemn Mr. Assad's government.

Jordan's King Abdullah Monday became the first Arab leader to publicly urge Syria's president to step down. Jordan, Saudi Arabi and Qatar were among the 18 Arab League members that voted Saturday to suspend Syria's membership because of the government's continued deadly crackdown on political opposition.

Syria's suspension from the league will take effect Wednesday, the same day Arab foreign ministers are due to meet in Morocco to discuss the situation.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem blasted the Arab League action, saying Monday that it was illegal and a dangerous step.

But Syrian state television reported Tuesday the government had released at least 1,100 prisoners arrested during the unrest, in what appeared to be an attempt to appease Arab League demands.

The United Nations says at least 3,500 people have been killed in connection with Syria's anti-government uprising since March. Syria blames much of the violence on foreign-backed terrorists and religious extremists.