Middle East

Syria protests: 'New deaths' as dissidents are seized

Members of the Syrian security forces man a checkpoint in Damascus, 24 April (image taken on mobile phone through windowscreen)
Image caption Heavily armed security forces manned checkpoints in Damascus on Sunday (image taken on mobile phone through windowscreen)

Security forces have reportedly shot dead at least three people and injured others in north-west Syria, days after the worst bloodshed since unrest began.

Police and soldiers opened fire from rooftops in the coastal town of Jabla, though no protest was being held at the time, witnesses said.

Security forces are said to be rounding up suspected protest organisers despite the lifting of the state of emergency.

Rights groups are urging an independent inquiry into Friday's bloodshed.

At least 95 people were reported killed across Syria on Friday and a further 12 on Saturday, as mourners came under fire.

Protests began five weeks ago, with small crowds inspired by events elsewhere in the region gathering to demand modest reforms.

The authorities have reacted erratically - sometimes promising to allow more democracy and freedoms, and other times opening fire on demonstrators.

The protesters' goals have become much more radical, with many now demanding President Bashar al-Assad step down.

'Shoot-to-kill'

Security forces in Jabla, a town of 80,000 near the city of Latakia, opened fire after a visit to the town by a new regional governor, an unnamed human rights activist told AFP news agency.

Angry residents later blocked the main road linking Latakia and Tartus to protest at the attack.

Dozens of anti-government activists are said to have been arrested following Friday's protests.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) condemned the detention of 18 people in cities in the north of the country and dozens of others elsewhere, and demanded their release.

There has been no independent confirmation of the arrests.

US-based Human Rights Watch has led the call for the investigation into Friday's deaths.

"After Friday's carnage, it is no longer enough to condemn the violence," spokesman Joe Stork said.

"Faced with the Syrian authorities' 'shoot-to-kill' strategy, the international community needs to impose sanctions on those ordering the shooting of protesters."

Other groups, including the SOHR and the Swiss-based International Commission of Jurists, also urged international investigations of the killings.

Western governments have repeatedly condemned the violence, and on Sunday the UK advised its citizens to leave Syria because of the deteriorating security situation.

International journalists have been prevented from entering the country, making information from there hard to verify.

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