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SYRIA: Three dead as security forces clash with protesters in central towns

May 29, 2011 |  5:32 am

Syrian forces Sunday attacked two central towns that have been epicenters of protests against embattled President Bashar Assad, killing at least three people, while elsewhere in the country security forces opened fire on protesters overnight, activists said.

Syrian troops and security forces stormed the town of Rastan, using tanks and armored vehicles and shooting randomly, activists said. At least three people were killed in the town of 80,000 and several injured, some critically, according to Wissam Tarif, executive director of the human rights group Insan.

Meanwhile, in Talbiseh, another town in the restive central province of Homs, numerous snipers had taken up positions on rooftops Sunday and there were “threats to the people that whoever goes out of his house will be killed immediately,” according to activists with Syrian Revolution 2011.

Other activists reported that troops bombarded Talbiseh using heavy artillery.

The reports could not be independently verified because of the Syrian government’s media blackout.

Shortly before Sunday’s attack, authorities cut phone and Internet services to Talbiseh and Rastan, activists said, and blocked all roads connecting the towns to the outside world. Rastan also lost water and electricity.

Video posted online shows what appear to be protesters in the northeastern town of Deir Alzour being shot at by security forces early Sunday.

 

The caption reads: “With our blood, we sacrifice ourselves.”

Anti-government activists staged protests overnight across Syria, including the Damascus suburbs of Zabadani and Douma.

Human rights groups say more than 1,000 people have been killed in Syria since anti-government protests began in mid-March.

Early Sunday, activists reported that Syrian forces were conducting operations in the southern village of Hirak, near the city of Dara, where the uprising began.

Al-Jazeera TV aired an amateur video showing five wounded Syrian troops on the floor of what appeared to be a hospital, quoting activists who said the men had been shot by fellow soldiers after they refused to shoot protesters.

Assad and his forces remain determined to clamp down on the protests, which threaten his family's 40-year rule. He now faces U.S. and European sanctions as well as an EU assets freeze and a visa ban that also applies to nine other members of his regime.

On Sunday, the group Syrian Revolution 2011 was calling for renewed anti-government protests Monday.

 "The people want the downfall of the regime," the activists said, advertising the event on their Facebook page with a picture of Assad engulfed in flames.


-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo

Video: Anti-government protesters in the Syrian town of Deir Alzour apparently were shot at by security forces overnight, although reports could not be independently confirmed. Credit: YouTube.

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