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SYRIA: Security forces gun down peaceful protesters, activists and video footage say

May 20, 2011 |  5:27 am

 

Clashes and gunfire rattled Syrian cities and towns Friday as President Bashar Assad's gunmen opened fire on crowds of thousands of peaceful protesters during another day of nationwide anti-government demonstrations that erupted as the weekly Muslim prayers ended, according to video footage and activist accounts.


Thumbnail-syria Video posted to the Internet showed unarmed people panicking and fleeing as the rattle of automatic weapon fire erupted in the background. 

The video above, said to have been filmed in an area near the town of Deir Zour in the far eastern parts of Syria, shows pandemonium in the streets as demonstrators try to take cover from what appears to be a barrage of gunfire directed at them.

Timeline: Uprising in Syria

"God is Great," protesters are heard screaming as gunshots ring out and as a cloud of black smoke is seen rising in the sky behind them. It wasn't clear if the gunmen were shooting at protesters, as they've done in recent weeks, or firing in the air.

The violence against peaceful protesters, on a day described as a Friday of Azadi (freedom in Kurdish) by activists to recognize the country's embattled Kurdish minority, was a striking show of contempt to President Obama's calls for human rights in Syria only hours earlier.

Syria-protests9A Syrian human rights lawyer told Babylon & Beyond that at least three protesters had been shot dead by security forces in the Bab Seda and Khaldia districts of the city of Homs, the country's restive third largest urban encalve. At least two protesters were also killed in the Damascus suburb of Dariya and the besieged southern town of Dara.

But many expect more casualties as the afternoon wears on.

According to witness and activist accounts posted to  social media sites, live ammunition was also fired at protesters in the coastal town of Baniyas, and clashes between protesters and security forces were underway in the Damascus district of Medan in front of a mosque on Friday afternoon. Security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters and arrested at least five as they pummeled others.

Meanwhile, in the southern town of Suweida, a stronghold of the country's Druze community, reports said that plainclothes shabiha thugs loyal to Assad attacked protesters indiscriminately. 

The president, a member of the Alawite community who has been manipulating the country's delicate sectarian balance,  has been trying for weeks to coax elders in Suweida to turn against the country's Sunni-led uprising, to little apparent avail. 

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Timeline: Uprising in Syria

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 -- Los Angeles Times

Video credit: YouTube

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