Syria bans all demos, as 10 killed in Homs | Pakistan Today

Syria bans all demos, as 10 killed in Homs

DAMASCUS – Syria imposed on Tuesday a total ban on all demonstrations after warning of a crackdown on an “armed revolt” by Islamist radicals and as four people died when security forces fired on protesters in the city of Homs. Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar told people “to refrain from taking part in all marches, demonstrations or sit-ins under any banner whatsoever”, state news agency SANA reported. He warned that if demonstrations were held, “the laws in force in Syria will be applied in the interest of the safety of the people and the stability of the country”.
Shaar was understood to be alluding to the emergency law in place since 1963. Its repeal has been a central demand of reformists demonstrating since March 15, and President Bashar al-Assad promised at the weekend to rescind it within a week.
The law restricts many civil liberties, including the imposition of restrictions on public gatherings, freedom of movement and allowing the “arrest of anyone suspected of posing a threat to security”. When the protests first began, the authorities relaxed its enforcement to permit peaceful gatherings, but Shaar’s announcement would appear to close that loophole.
The announcement came hours after the authorities vowed to suppress what they called an “armed revolt” by Salafists, Muslims who espouse an austere form of Sunni Islam that seeks a return to practices common in the early days of the faith. The authorities said three army officers and three children were killed around the city of Homs. “Armed criminal gangs who block roads and spread fear in the area, came upon General Abdo Khodr al-Tellawi, his two children and his nephew, and killed them in cold blood” and “mutilated” the bodies, state news agency SANA reported.
Two other officers “fell as martyrs to armed criminal gangs’ bullets in Homs”, and General Mohammed Abdo Khaddour was shot in the head and chest as he traveled to his office there, the agency said. An activist reached by telephone told AFP that the Homs “sit-in was dispersed with force. There was heavy gunfire”. He said that very early Tuesday the security forces swarmed into Al-Saa Square, where some 20,000 people were staging a sit-in, and scattered protesters who had vowed not to leave until Assad stepped down.
Another activist said four people were killed during the assault by security forces, but gave no details. At least 200 people have been killed by security forces or plain-clothes police since the start of the protest movement, according to Amnesty International.Just hours before the attack on Al-Saa Square, the government vowed to suppress “armed revolt” it said was undermining national security. “The latest incidents have shown that … armed Salafist groups, particularly in the cities of Homs and Banias, have openly called for armed revolt,” SANA quoted the interior ministry as saying.
The ministry accused such groups of killing soldiers, policemen and civilians, and of attacking public and private property, and warned that “their terrorist activities will not be tolerated”. The authorities “will act with determination to impose security and stability in the country” and will “pursue the terrorists wherever they are in order to bring them to justice and end the armed revolt”, it said. In other instances, the government has blamed “armed criminal gangs” and, without elaborating, spoke on Tuesday of “traitors and criminals in the service of foreigners to carry out a criminal plan”.
The demonstrators arrived in their thousands at Al-Saa Square on Monday, many setting up tents, a day after 11 people were killed by security forces in Homs and a nearby town during a day of massive nationwide protests. Inspired by popular uprisings that toppled hardline rulers in Tunisia and Egypt, the protesters vowed not to leave Al-Saa Square in the centre of Homs until Assad’s regime fell. They dismissed as insufficient Assad’s pledge to repeal the emergency law and demanded the release of all political prisoners and an end to arbitrary arrests. Since the beginning of the protest movement more than a month ago, the authorities have repeatedly blamed violence on “armed gangs”. Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Syria would proceed with reforms as promised, but warned against “sabotage” by protesters, SANA reported.

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