Syrians Protest After Outrage Over Mass Grave

Tuesday, 17 May 2011 07:04 AM

 

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Syrian protesters kept up demonstrations, gathering in the suburbs of the capital and the central city of Homs, following reports of the discovery of a mass grave containing the bodies of anti-government activists.

The Ministry of Interior denied reports of the burial ground in the city of Daraa, saying the allegation was part of a “campaign of provocation and baseless falsehoods,” state television reported today.

Protesters gathered late yesterday in the Damascus suburbs of Saqba, Harasta and Darayya, while women staged a nighttime rally in Homs, Mahmoud Merhi of the Arab Organization for Human Rights said in a phone interview today from the capital. Security forces backed by tanks continued to besiege the town of Tallkalakh near the border with Lebanon, he said.

Syrian authorities have killed at least 850 people during two months of protests, according to Merhi and Ammar Qurabi, head of Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights. The suppression of pro-democracy protests followed revolts that ousted longtime leaders in Egypt and Tunisia. The uprising drew initial pledges of reform from President Bashar al-Assad, who lifted an emergency law in place since 1963 and named a new government. He hasn’t repeated the assurances in recent weeks as security forces stepped up their assaults.

Qurabi said yesterday that villagers near Daraa, where anti-government protests began, found a mass grave containing the bodies of demonstrators killed by security forces since the unrest started in March.

Video Footage

He said authorities cordoned off the area on the outskirts of Daraa where the bodies were found. He also provided Bloomberg News with a video purported to be of the grave that has also been posted on the YouTube website. It wasn’t possible to immediately confirm the authenticity of the video. It showed bodies being dug out of the ground and put in plastic bags.

Most foreign journalists have been banned from Syria and the government has restricted media access.

Qurabi said yesterday that the bodies of 34 people killed by government forces during the past five days were found in Jassem and Inkhel. The villages are part of the Daraa governorate. Authorities have said they were chasing Muslim militants and “terrorist elements” in the area.

Syria has asked the Lebanese government to hand over four Syrian soldiers who refused to fire on residents of Tallkalakh and fled with hundreds of civilians across the border into Lebanon, Al-Arabiya reported today. One of the soldiers died of his wounds, the news channel said.

 


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