Syrian forces kill 33, opposition says


At least 33 more people were killed Sunday in Syria’s 14-month-old crackdown on opponents of President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, a leading opposition group reported.

A total of 21 deaths were in the northwestern city of Hama, where reported heavy shelling of a neighborhood by government troops, said Rafif Jouejati, a spokesman for the Local Coordination Committees of Syria. Sunday’s toll follows 26 deaths Saturday, according to the LCC, a network of opposition activists.

The United Nations says between 9,000 and 10,000 have been killed since initially peaceful protests against al-Assad erupted in March 2011. Opposition activists put the toll at more than 11,000.

Syria’s government, meanwhile, said it buried 18 more members of its security forces who died battling “armed terrorist groups” around the country. CNN cannot independently verify reports of deaths and violence because the Syrian government has severely restricted access by international media.

The fighting has continued despite a peace plan brokered by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, now a special envoy for the United Nations and the Arab League.

Syria’s government Sunday denied claims by the rebel Free Syrian Army, a group of military defectors who have taken up arms on behalf of the oppostion, that it had killed several of its leading government officials. The state-run news agency SANA called the claim “categorically baseless” and quoted two of the supposedly slain officials dismissing the report.

“I am speaking from my office at the Interior Ministry,” SANA quoted Lt. Gen. Mohammad al-Shaar, the country’s interior ministry. “All my colleagues are performing their duties.”

Al-Shaar and Syria’s assistant vice president, Gen. Hasan Turkmani, were both quoted criticizing Arabic news networks Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, which broadcast the claim.