Middle East

Syria forces shoot on activist funeral: rights group

Protesters carry a Syrian flag during a demonstration Saturday in Paris, in support to Syrian people. - AFP

NICOSIA: Syrian security forces opened fire on a funeral procession for an activist in the oil-rich east on Sunday as they pressed a crackdown on dissent, a human rights group said.

"Syrian security forces in Deir al Zour fired live bullets at a funeral procession for Ziad al-Obeidi," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in reference to one of its associates on the ground.

"Some 7,000 people took part in the funeral which turned into a demonstration calling for the fall of the regime," the Britain-based watchdog said.

Obeidi, 42, was killed by security forces who were hunting for him in Deir al Zour, a province in Syria's east. He had gone into hiding in August during military operations in the area.

Security forces on Sunday also carried out raids and arrests in the flashpoint central province of Homs and in the outskirts of Damascus, with 19 people arrested in Dmeir, the Observatory said.

The official news agency SANA, meanwhile, said an "armed terrorist gang" ambushed and killed two security agents in the central city of Hama, a hotbed of dissent and the focal point of a 10-day military operation in August.

President Bashar al-Assad's regime blames "armed gangs" for the violence that has wracked Syria for the past seven months, but activists say most fo the deaths are caused by security forces putting down non-violent protests.

U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said on Friday that more than 3,000 people, including 187 children, have been killed in the fierce crackdown on dissent.

In its latest toll, the Observatory said security forces killed 12 people in Syria on Saturday alone.

A Damascus court, meanwhile, decided to release on bail Mazen Adi, a leading opposition figure who was detained on May 11, his lawyer said.

"The criminal court of Damascus decided on Sunday to free Mazen Adi, leader of the (banned) People's Democratic Party on 30,000 Syrian pounds [$600] bail," said his lawyer Michel Shammas.

"He will then be tried on charges of damaging the image of the state," he added.

Arab foreign ministers were to meet at the League headquarters in Cairo on Sunday to discuss the bloody crackdown on protests in Syria at the request of the Gulf monarchies. Reports said the possibility of Syria being suspended from the Arab League was to be discussed.





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