Syria: More deaths as funerals held for protesters


At least five people are reported to have been killed in Syria at funerals for anti-government protesters who died a day earlier.

Map locating the main protests across Syria over recent weeks. At least five people were killed Saturday in Syrian funeral processions as they marched to bury their dead in a local cemetery, witnesses said. (AFP)

Witnesses said security forces had opened fire on people gathering for funerals in suburbs of Damascus, and near the southern village of Ezra.

Tens of thousands of mourners were reported to be chanting for the overthrow of the Syrian regime.

Scores of protesters died on Friday, the deadliest day in weeks of unrest.

The bloodshed, which came a day after President Bashar al-Assad scrapped decades of emergency rule, drew strong international condemnation.

Syria’s state news agency has reported a limited number of protests in some provinces and described the violence as the work of armed criminal gangs.

‘Heavy volley’

More than 150 buses had left the southern town of Deraa, an epicentre for demonstrations, to attend funerals for 18 victims in nearby villages, AFP news agency reported.

Reports said Syrian security forces had fired on mourners travelling to funerals in Ezra, in an effort to prevent them from attending.

“There was heavy volley of gunfire in our direction as we approached Ezra to join the funerals of martyrs,” one witness said.

Several deaths were reported near Ezra and in the Damascus suburb of Douma. Reuters news agency also reported that security forces had opened fire in another Damascus neighbourhood, Barzeh, and that clerics were using mosque loudspeakers to appeal for doctors to help the wounded.

The accounts could not immediately be verified.

The BBC’s Owen Bennett-Jones in Beirut says it appears that the government has made a deliberate decision to use live ammunition, to clear the streets and to impose order.

With many people in Syria now openly calling for an end to President Assad’s rule, he says the regime realises its survival is at stake and it is fighting hard.

Funerals were also expected in the Damascus neighbourhood of Midan and in Harasta, north of the capital.

Human rights groups and activists gave death tolls for Friday ranging from just over 70 to more than 90, and one group said the death toll could reach 100.

Many of the deaths were reported to have occurred in the central city of Homs, in Ezra in the south, and in a suburb of the capital, Damascus.

Video footage showed protesters scattering as they apparently came under fire.

Amnesty International said two boys aged seven and 10 were among those killed in Ezra.

Call for investigation

US President Barack Obama joined a chorus of international condemnation.

“This outrageous use of violence to quell protests must come to an end now,” he said of Friday’s clashes.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an independent investigation into the killings, while France said it was “extremely concerned” and condemned the violence.

“Light should be shed on these crimes and those responsible must be identified, arrested and brought to justice,” foreign ministry deputy spokeswoman Christine Fages said.

With foreign journalists unable to get into Syria, much of the reporting of the country has depended on footage distributed by opposition activists.

The official Syrian news agency said security forces had used only tear gas and water cannon to prevent clashes on Friday.

It said the army had found digital cameras containing short, fabricated videos depicting fake repression, and that armed gangs were carrying bottles of blood to be used in making fake films. BBC