Syria deploys more troops, tightens grip over key cities

Syria deploys more troops, tightens grip over key cities

Syria deployed additional troops in several cities on Sunday as the government tightened its grip over key parts of the country where massive pro-democracy protests have taken place, dpa reported.

Troops backed by tanks entered residential areas in the central city of Homs, activists said.

Security forces were deployed in the Bab al-Sibaa and Bab Amr neighbourhoods in Homs. Gunshots were heard in both areas, and there were reports of helicopters circling the city.

Tanks also entered the Tafas and Dael areas in the southern city of Daraa.

Dozens of people were arrested in the coastal city of Banias, activists said. The Syrian Days of Rage group reported that a 10- year-old was among those detained.

Pro-democracy protests broke out in Syria on March 15. Violent government crackdowns on demonstrators have left more than 600 dead so far, according to the opposition.

Syrian human rights groups have issued a list with the names of more than 350 people who died in Daraa alone.

The government maintains that the protests have been instigated by "foreign conspirators," Islamist extremists and terrorist groups.

State television broadcast alleged confessions late Saturday by detainees referred to as "terrorists who attacked the families of army personnel in the town of Saida, in Daraa, on April 29."

The report showed three men who apparently confessed that they received money and bought weapons from "external sides" and tried to "exploit the protests to attack the army and the security forces."

Ahmad Mohammad Ayyash, described as the leader of a terrorist group, is a Syrian who reportedly confessed to being supported by one Saud al-Otaibi, who he met in Saudi Arabia.

He said he received 500,000 Syrian pounds (10,500 dollars) "to fight men of this regime and take their women and children as hostages."

Syrian television has aired several alleged confessions before, including a group that confessed to receiving money and arms from Lebanon to ignite protests and destabilize the country.

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