Syria troops 'kill 11 at funeral'


Syrian security forces shot dead 11 mourners in the central city of Homs yesterday at a mass funeral for people killed in the latest crackdown on protests against president Bashar al-Assad, a rights campaigner said.

Human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouna said she had the names of at least 11 people killed when the funeral at Nasr cemetery for 10 pro-democracy demonstrators killed by security forces in Homs on Friday came under fire.

A witness who was at the funeral said the mourners shouted "overthrow the regime" and that they came under fire as they were leaving the cemetery eight kilometres north of the centre of Homs.

"The shooting was in cold blood. People were streaming peacefully out of the cemetery," he said.

Tens of mourners were wounded in the attack that occurred at around noon, he said, adding that he saw five people with gunshot wounds in their legs and arms being taken to hospital.

Syria has barred most international media since the protests broke out two months ago, making it impossible to verify independently accounts from activists and officials.

Another resident of Homs said heavy machinegun fire was heard at night from the Bab Amro area, where tanks deployed earlier this month to crush growing demonstrations against Assad's autocratic rule.

Security forces killed another protester, named Ziad al-Qadi, when they fired live rounds at a demonstration in the Damascus suburb of Saqba, a witness said by telephone from the suburb of 40,000.

"A large demonstration calling for the overthrow of the regime had been going on since the afternoon. It felt like the whole of Saqba took to the streets. Security forces entered in the evening and started firing," said the witness.

The latest violence came as the Syrian National Organisation for Human Rights said security forces had killed at least 44 civilians on Friday in attacks on pro-democracy demonstrations across Syria.

Prominent rights campaigner Ammar Qurabi, who heads of the organisation, said more than half were killed in the northwest province of Idlib, where tanks deployed on Friday to crush large demonstrations against Assad's rule.

The protests broke out in defiance of a military crackdown that another rights group says has killed more than 800 civilians in the past nine weeks.

Assad has largely dismissed the protests as serving a foreign-backed conspiracy to sow sectarian strife.

Syrian authorities blame most of the violence on armed groups, backed by Islamists and outside powers, who they say have killed more than 120 soldiers and police. They have recently suggested they believe the protests have peaked.

Syria said yesterday armed groups killed 17 people on Friday in the provinces of Idlib and Homs to the south.

The state news agency said the civilians, police and security forces were killed after armed groups exploited the commitment of police forces to instructions by the Interior Ministry "not to shoot, to preserve the lives of civilians".

It said saboteurs burnt public buildings and police stations in Idlib, injuring eight policemen.