Tainted Syrian businessman quits, but protests set to continue

Tainted Syrian businessman quits, but protests set to continue

Syrian protesters vowed to stage more anti-government protests on Friday despite a decision by a tainted cousin of President Bashar al-Assad to quit his business, DPA reported.

Rami Makhouf, who is seen as a symbol of corruption in the country, announced late Thursday that he would be divesting from his businesses and taking on charity work instead, Syrian state television said.

The move was seen as another government bid to quell its opponents, who since March have been calling for reforms and the ouster of Assad.

Makhlouf's businesses include the country's largest mobile phone operator, Syriatel, as well as companies in the tourism, real estate and construction sectors.

He announced he would put his 40 per cent holding in Syriatel up for a public offering, with profits allocated to humanitarian work and families of those killed in the unrest.

Makhouf has been targeted by European Union and United States sanctions. Protesters have torched some of Syriatel offices since the unrest began.

Meanwhile, Syrian troops were being deployed in the country's northern cities ahead of Friday's protests. A large number of soldiers backed by tanks were seen entering Maarat al-Numan, a town in the north-western Idlib province, activists said online.

Demonstrators took to the streets of the coastal city of Tartous on Thursday chanting anti-Assad slogans. Rallies also took place in several neighbourhoods of the capital Damascus.

Syrian rights groups say 1,300 civilians and more than 300 soldiers and police have been killed since the uprising began.

The death toll is difficult to verify as the government has banned the entry of foreign journalists and international human rights groups.

More than 10,000 people have been detained since the protests began.

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