Syria unrest: More than 50 killed as Assad defends crackdown

Pope and Arab League condemn violence.

Afp August 08, 2011

DAMASCUS: Syrian security forces killed more than 50 people on Sunday, activists said, as the president defended the crackdown on “outlaws” and the pope and Arab League added their voices to condemnation of the violence.

The US envoy to Damascus, Robert Ford, who returned to Syria on Thursday, also said in a US television interview broadcast on Sunday that Washington will “try to ratchet up the pressure” on President Bashar al Assad’s regime.

The latest bloodshed came as Pope Benedict XVI said he was “following with deep concern the dramatic and increasing episodes of violence in Syria that have led to numerous victims and grave suffering.”

Ford also told ABC news that the violence against protesters was “grotesque” and “abhorrent”.

Activists said security forces backed by tanks killed 42 civilians in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor and at least 10 more in the central town of Hula on Sunday.

“Forty-two civilians have been killed and more than 100 wounded in Deir Ezzor by gunfire,” Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights head Abdel Karim Rihawi told AFP.

But Assad roundly defended his security forces.

“To deal with outlaws who cut off roads, seal towns and terrorise residents is a duty of the state which must defend security and protect the lives of civilians,” state news agency SANA quoted him as saying.

The Arab League also made its first official statement on the unrest, calling on Damascus to “immediately” stop the violence.

Secretary General Nabil al Arabi also urged an “impartial probe” into the bloodshed, it said.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2011.


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