Witnesses report 13 protesters killed in Syria
BEIRUT // Syrian security forces opened fire on thousands of protesters on Friday, killing at least 13 people, wounding hundreds and forcing residents to turn mosques into makeshift hospitals in a southern city that has become a flashpoint for anti-government demonstrations, witnesses said.
The government acknowledged violence in Deraa, but said only two people died and blamed armed thugs.
One witness said he helped ferry the dead and wounded to the city's hospital, where he counted 13 corpses.
"My clothes are soaked with blood," he said by telephone from Deraa, adding that he was among thousands of people at the protest and he witnessed security forces shooting live ammunition.
A nurse at the hospital said they had run out of beds; many people were being treated on the floor or in nearby mosques.
Protest organisers have called on Syrians to take to the streets every Friday for the past three weeks, demanding reform in one of the most authoritarian nations in the Middle East. The protests have rattled the regime of President Bashar al Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for nearly 40 years.
The witness accounts coming out of Syria could not be independently confirmed because the regime has restricted media access to the country. Human rights groups say around 115 people have been killed in the security crackdown.
Witnesses in several other cities across Syria also reported protests on Friday. A witness in the coastal city of Latakia said hundreds of people took part in a largely peaceful protest Friday calling for political freedoms.
Activists said protests also erupted in the central cities of Homs and Hama, the coastal city of Banyas, the northern city of Aleppo and outside the capital, Damascus.
A video posted by activists on Facebook showed a crowd of people in the Damascus suburb of Harasta shouting "We want Freedom!" and "The Syrian people will not be humiliated." The footage could not be independently confirmed.
The state-run News agency said a police officer and an ambulance driver were killed Friday in Deraa. The report blamed "armed men" for the violence. The government has blamed much of the unrest in recent weeks on armed thugs.
It was not clear if SANA and the witness were counting the same people.
Published: April 9, 2011 04:00 AM