Thousands of anti-government protesters rally in Syria
Thousands of Syrian anti-government protesters rallied against President Bashar al-Assad on Friday in cities across the country, DPA reported.
In the central city of Hama, thousands took to the streets after the weekly noon prayers, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC) said on its website.
Protesters in the city of Homs, south of Hama, carried banners denouncing a dialogue with the regime and demanding that it be toppled.
In the town of Dael, in the southern province of Daraa, about 3,000 protesters chanted, "Leave, leave!" the LCC said.
More than 8,000 demonstrated in front of Qasmo Mosque in the north-eastern town of al-Qamishli, according to the LCC, which has documented the protests and published names of those killed or detained during the popular uprising.
Protesters had vowed mass rallies in what they dubbed the "Friday of Departure," as they have done every Friday since mid-March, when the demonstrations began calling for greater freedoms and al-Assad's ouster.
More than 1,300 people have died and 10,000 have been detained nationwide in the government crackdown on protesters, according to human rights groups. Hundreds of security personnel have also been killed.
The official SANA news agency reported that the army had freed a group of officers and soldiers who were seized Tuesday by a terrorist group.
But an activist near the Turkish border rejected the report, and said that six officers and 18 soldiers contacted his group because they had defected and wanted to know which roads to take to escape to Turkey.
But the army caught up with the alleged defectors, and 16 of them were killed in the ensuing clashes, while the rest were detained, the activist said, adding that most roads leading to the Turkish borders were now controlled by government forces.
Al-Assad's regime has been criticized by many countries over the violence against protesters.
"The Syrian government is running out of time," US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday.
"They are either going to allow a serious political process that will include peaceful protests to take place throughout Syria and engage in a productive dialogue with members of the opposition and civil society, or they're going to continue to see increasingly organized resistance," Clinton said.