Heavy gunfire in central, north Syria; 11 killed


Beirut, Lebanon – Syrian security forces unleashed a barrage of gunfire on Wednesday, killing at least 11 people and leaving thousands cowering in their homes as President Bashar Assad’s troops kept up the government’s assault on a 6-month-old uprising, activists and witnesses said.

Nine of the dead were in Homs, a hotbed of opposition to Assad’s autocratic regime. Two others were shot dead during raids in Sarameen, in northern Syria.

For days, security forces have been pursuing activists and anti-government protesters in Homs, part of a ferocious crackdown on the most serious challenge to the 40-year Assad dynasty. The UN says more than 2,200 people have died in nearly six months of protests.

“All through the night, there was shooting. The gunfire didn’t stop,” a resident of the city said by phone on Wednesday. “I can’t tell exactly what is going on because it’s dangerous to go out.”

Omar Idilbi, a spokesman for the Local Coordination Committees, an activist network, said security forces simultaneously stormed several districts in the old part of the city, including the Bab Dreib, Bab Houd and the Bayada neighborhoods. Nine people were confirmed dead in ongoing shooting in those areas, the LCC said.

The London-based Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists across the country, said 10 were killed.

Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, has seen some of the largest anti-regime protests in Syria over the past months, despite repeated crackdowns.

On Tuesday, security forces opened fire from a checkpoint in Rastan, just north of Homs, killing two people, including a 15-year-old boy, activists said. They said five unidentified corpses, including that of a woman, also were found dumped around the city centre.