Syrian troops reportedly pull back from central city of Hama
Syrian government troops have pulled back from positions around the central city of Hama, a report said early Monday.
Soldiers had deployed around the city of 650,000 late Saturday following protests by tens of thousands of people against President Bashar al-Assad, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria told Al Jazeera news agency.
The troops withdrew late Sunday, after arresting dozens of people in outlying neighbourhoods of the city, unidentified witnesses were quoted as saying, DPA reported.
The opposition said secret police were patrolling the city and that authorities had carried out arrests in Hama amid heavy gunfire and increased troop presence.
Saturday's protests were the largest against the government since the unrest began three months ago, the Al Jazeera report said.
The crackdown in Hama came one day after al-Assad dismissed the governor when crowds started gathering in the provincial capital on Friday.
More than 1,365 civilians and 344 security personnel have been killed, according to local human rights groups, since the protests calling for al-Assad's ouster began in mid-March.
Al Jazeera reported Monday that troops had killed two protesters in a suburb of Damascus.
At least 10,000 people have been detained, according to human rights advocates. Reports of casualties and arrests cannot be independently verified because most foreign media have been banned from Syria.
Last month, al-Assad said a national dialogue would start soon to review new legislation including laws on parliamentary elections, allow the creation of political parties other than the ruling Baath Party and to consider changes to the constitution.
Protesters and Western diplomats have called al-Assad's promises for a national dialogue insufficient as the violent crackdown on the demonstrations continued.