Syrian Activists Report Killing of 34 Civilians by Assad’s Loyalists

Posted December 5th, 2011 at 5:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Activists in the central Syrian city of Homs say militiamen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad kidnapped and killed 34 civilians Monday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said circumstances of their deaths were not immediately clear but activists and residents in several districts reported a spate of kidnappings in anti-Assad neighborhoods since Sunday.

The head of the Britain-based group told VOA Monday security forces shot dead another five civilians in Homs, while one person was killed near the southern flashpoint of Daraa and a man shot by security forces days ago died of his wounds in a village near Homs.

The rights group said army defectors killed three security force members and one police officer near Daraa, while security forces arrested a number of students, including 10 near Damascus and eight in the Mediterranean town of Jabla.

The latest violence came as Syria said Monday it has responded “positively” to an Arab League demand to let its observers into the country to verify a pledge by President Assad to stop a deadly crackdown on the pro-democracy uprising.

A Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Damascus has informed the Arab League that it will agree to the observer plan with conditions. The spokesman said Syria requested that the agreement be signed in Damascus and that the country's suspension from the league and proposed sanctions be cancelled once the agreement is signed.

There was no immediate comment on the Syrian proposal from the 22-member regional bloc.

The Arab League suspended Syria's membership and approved a series of sanctions last month in response to Syrian defiance of a previous ultimatum to accept observers, end the crackdown and start a dialogue with the opposition. Syria had complained that a large observer mission would undermine its sovereignty.

The sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes on the Syrian leadership.

Also Monday, a top Syrian customs official said Damascus has decided to suspend a free trade agreement with neighboring Turkey and to impose a 30 percent customs duty on goods coming from Turkey.

Turkish leaders recently called on President Assad to resign and have intensified the pressure on Damascus by vowing tough economic sanctions.

The United Nations estimates that unrest-related violence in Syria has killed more than 4,000 people since the uprising began in March.