Activists says mass arrests carried out in Syria

Activists says mass arrests carried out in Syria

Dozens of Syrians have been arrested in a security force crackdown on anti-government protesters, activists said Saturday, after tens of thousands of people rejected President Bashar al-Assad's latest promise of reform, dpa reported.

At least 41 people have been detained in Tasil town, in the southern city of Daraa, where security forces stormed houses and shops, activists said.

More arrests have been carried out in the northern province of Idlib and in the central city of Aleppo, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.

Also Saturday, Al-Assad sacked the governor of the western province of Hama, where thousands of anti-government demonstrators had packed the provincial capital the day before.

The president had "issued a decree discharging Ahmed Khaled from his position as the governor of Hama," Syrian state television reported.

Army forces launched a crackdown on protesters in Hama early last month.

This is the third time al-Assad has sacked a governor since anti-government protests began in mid-March. He has already replaced the governors of the southern Daraa province and the western Homs.

Hama was the scene of a lethal government crackdown in 1982 that killed up to 20,000 people. Sunni residents of the town had attempted to revolt against then president Hafez al-Assad's minority Alawite sect.

According to the Syrian Observatory rights group, 1,365 people and 340 security personnel have been killed since the latest protests began. A further 10,000 have been detained, according to rights advocates.

Human Rights Watch said government forces should immediately halt the excessive use of force and free everyone detained for exercising their rights to free expression.

The group said that security forces and their loyalists have killed at least 21 people in the third-largest Syrian city, Homs, since June 17.

The statement, which quoted witnesses and other human rights groups, said that "during the protests security forces have beaten protesters with clubs, vandalized private property, and broken into homes where they suspected protesters had sought refuge."

"President Bashar al-Assad's promises of new laws allowing more political participation ring hollow when security forces are still above the most basic laws," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Last month, al-Assad said a national dialogue would start soon to review new legislation including laws on parliamentary elections as early as August, draft a new media law, and allow political parties other than the ruling Baath Party, as well as look at possible changes to the constitution.

Tens of thousands protested across Syria on Friday, rejecting al-Assad's promises or reform and calling on him to leave power.

Around 15 people were killed when security forces used live ammunition and tear gas against protesters, according to activists.

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