Eight killed in Syria protests; world pressure on al-Assad

Arab World Materials 28 May 2011 03:35 (UTC +04:00)

At least eight protesters were killed in Friday's mass rallies in Syria, as world leaders stepped up pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to speed up reforms, dpa reported.

Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators took to the streets on Friday in several Syrian cities, as they have been for weeks, calling for al-Assad's ouster.

Eight people were killed after security forces used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse the anti-government rallies, a Syrian activist in Damascus told the German Press Agency dpa.

The Group of Eight (G8) urged the Syrian leadership to "immediately stop using force and intimidation" against its own people.

While the G8 stopped short of threating United Nations action, it said it would "consider further measures."

US President Barack Obama "was right" when he called on al-Assad to lead the country's transition to democracy or step down, said French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the G8 summit, which ended Friday.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called al-Assad Friday in another bid to press him to end the unrest.

Meanwhile, the official Sana news agency reported that 36 automatic rifles were seized in a truck used for transporting building materials. Customs officials in Raqqa, northeastern Syria, said the truck was coming from the Turkish territories and also carried "a large number of spare parts for the seized rifles."

According to human rights groups, an estimated 1,100 people have been killed since the demonstrations calling for greater freedoms, political reforms and the resignation of al-Assad began in March.

Security forces were also firing on protesters in the coastal city of Banias and in al-Hasaka in eastern Syria. In Deir el-Zour, troops fired live bullets at demonstrators after they emerged from the al-Orfi Mosque, activists said.

About 40 protesters were detained in the area, and at least four were injured in clashes with security forces.

Thousands marched in eastern Ruston town, Hama and Daraya cities, chanting, "The people want to topple the regime." Other protesters said, "Bye, Bye Bashar. Have a good night."

Over the past weeks, massive demonstrations have occurred regularly on Fridays after noon prayers.

Al-Assad took office in 2000, following the death of his father, president Hafiz al-Assad.