Official websites hacked by opposition group in Syria
Azerbaijan , Baku, Sept. 26 / Trend A. Isgandarov/
The official websites of seven major Syrian cities and several government departments have been hacked, as the country's government continues an extensive crackdown on anti-government protesters in the province of Homs and elsewhere.
A London-based rights group reported the deaths of four people in the crackdown on Sunday, Al Jazeera reported.
The websites for the cities of Homs, Aleppo, Latakia, Damascus, Tartous, Deir Ezzor and Palmyra were hacked by members of the Anonymous Operation Syria group on Sunday, with the home pages replaced by an interactive map of Syria showing data on those killed in the government's crackdown.
The map showed the names, ages and dates of death of those killed since the uprising began in March, putting the death toll at 2,316.
The websites have since been reset by their administrators, with each now only displaying a generic page.
Several other websites, including those of the ministry of transportation and the department of antiquities and museums, were also hacked. The hacked versions of the webpages included a link to a site advising activists within Syria on how to maintain anonymity on the internet in order to evade government tracking.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government's crackdown on the province of Homs continued on Sunday, with a major deployment of troops there. Security forces were also deployed to the Douma suburb of Damascus, activists said.
Syrian tanks hit a strategic highway in the al-Rastan area in the early hours of Monday morning, apparently attempting to dislodge army defectors who had taken refuge there, activists and residents said.
Three inhabitants of the area were injured when troops loyal to Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, used heavy machine guns mounted on tanks to fire upon the town, after having surrounded it earlier in the night.
Activists reported hearing heavy explosions.
The army defectors have been supporting the pro-democracy protesters in al-Rastan, which is located about 20km north of the city of Homs, along the main highway leading to Turkey.
Activists also said that military reinforcements had been sent to Quseir, a town on the border with Lebanon.
The Syrian army had been strengthening its presence in Quseir on Saturday after civilians had attempted to flee violence in the country.
Homs , together with the northwestern province of Idlib on the border with Turkey, has traditionally provided the bulk of majority Sunni foot soldiers in the military, which is effectively commanded by Assad's brother Maher and led by officers from Assad's minority Alawite sect.
The two regions have seen some of the biggest street protests against Assad in the last few weeks.
Troops earlier stormed the villages of Za'faraneh and Deir al-Jin, between Rastan and the town of Talbiseh to the south, local activists said, adding that there was no immediate information on casualties.
Syria 's crackdown protests has sparked international outrage and rebukes from Syria's powerful northern neighbor Turkey, once among Assad's keenest backers.