Activists: Syrian Rebels Seize Town Near Damascus

Posted January 21st, 2012 at 6:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Syrian activists said Saturday a group of army deserters seized the town of Douma on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, and that heavy fighting continued into the night.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels were fighting the government troops at the entrances to Douma suburbs, which have been a continuing source of unrest during a 10-month crackdown on anti-government protests.

Violence continued across the country Saturday. Syrian state media and activists said at least 30 people were killed as opposition groups appealed to the Arab League to seek United Nations intervention in Syria.

The Local Coordination Committee in Syria said about 30 unidentified bodies were found in a hospital morgue in the northwestern Idlib province. The report could not be independently confirmed.

The Arab bloc is due to meet in Egypt's capital, Cairo, Sunday to discuss a report that reviews the first month of the heavily-criticized observer mission in Syria.

Head of the opposition Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun, was in Cairo on Saturday for meetings with Arab League officials. He said that if the report is not objective, his group will reject it.

(Arabic) Burhan Ghalioun, head of the Syrian National Council):

“From our viewpoint, as the National Council, the conditions that the commission (of Arab monitors) were working under and the circumstances that accompanied them and the limited tools at their disposal, do not qualify them to forward an objective report about the Syrian situation,a report that reflects Syrian public opinion and international opinion. And so we said that if a report is presented, which, for these reasons, is not objective, then the Syrian National Council will reject it in its entirety.''

The SANA news agency reported a roadside bomb in Idlib hit a prison truck carrying detainees, killing at least 14 people and wounding 26 others, including a number of security personnel accompanying the prisoners.

SANA blamed the attack on “armed terrorists.” There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Syrian activist Rami Abdul-Raham told VOA clashes between security forces and defected soldiers in the country's northwest killed at least nine Syrian troops. He said at least four others were killed outside Damascus, when security forces fired on a funeral procession. In Homs, he said sniper fire killed one person, and another died from injured sustained in a previous attack, while six people died elsewhere in the country.

The United Nations says violence linked to the uprising has killed more than 5,400 people. Syria says “terrorists” have killed about 2,000 security force members since the unrest began.