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SYRIA: At least 10 killed, 250 detained in Baniyas

May 8, 2011 |  2:56 am

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Syrian forces shot and killed at least 10 civilians in an attack on Sunni districts in the mixed city of Baniyas and surrounding areas that continued Sunday, human rights activists said.

At least four of those killed Saturday were women from the nearby village of Marqab who had been protesting when they were shot, according to Razan Zeitoune, a human rights lawyer in Damascus. She said six additional protesters were killed in Baniyas, where a "massive arrest campaign" was underway Sunday.

Protesters reported 250 people had been detained and that 30 tanks were patrolling the city Sunday.

"Is there any human rights in Syria today?" Zeitoune said via email.

Her account could not be independently verified. However, the Syrian human rights group Sawasiah also told Reuters four women were killed Saturday when soldiers fired at a small, all-women protest marching on the main coastal highway from Marqab.

Ammar Qurabi of the National Organization for Human Rights told the Associated Press that three women were killed in Baniyas during Saturday's protests.

Qurabi and Sawasiah officials could not be reached Sunday to verify their accounts.

Early Saturday, troops in tanks and armored vehicles entered Baniyas, an oil industry city of about 50,000 on Syria's Mediterranean coast, taking up position in a hilltop castle and cutting off power and phone lines, according to the Associated Press.

Communications to the city were severed Saturday and in Damascus, mobile 3G Internet services had also been down since Friday, Sawasiah officials told Reuters.

The country's largest mobile network operator is Syriatel, which is owned by President Bashar Assad's cousin, Syrian tycoon Rami Makhlouf. The second-largest network is owned by the South African company MTN.

Sawasiah officials said the number of civilians killed in the violence across the country had reached 800 by Sunday, a figure government officials disputed, according to Reuters.

State authorities said Baniyas was a “center of Salafist terrorism,” a reference to conservative Muslim groups, and that armed thugs had killed soldiers near the city, according to Reuters.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo

Photo: Protesters hold a poster that says, "All cities in Syria are terrorist!?" during a demonstration after Friday prayers in the Syrian port city of Baniyas. Syrian tanks attacked the mostly Sunni Muslim city Saturday, a human rights activist said, increasing sectarian tensions in a country gripped for seven weeks by protests against the rule of President Bashar Assad. Credit: Reuters.

 

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