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Ten killed in fresh Syria swoop; US warning

Arab World Materials 15 October 2011 22:26
At least 10 people were reportedly killed Saturday in renewed government crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in Syria, as a US diplomat warned that violence may spread in the country, dpa reported.
Ten killed in fresh Syria swoop; US warning

At least 10 people were reportedly killed Saturday in renewed government crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in Syria, as a US diplomat warned that violence may spread in the country, dpa reported.

Security forces in Damascus opened fire, killing two mourners attending the funeral of a boy who had allegedly died of injuries incurred during an earlier protest, Syrian activists said.

They added that many others were injured when the forces fired on the mourners in the Damascus neighbourhood of Al Midan as they chanted slogans against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

On Friday, opposition activists posted footage on the internet of what they said were doctors struggling to save an 8-year-old boy, who later died of a bullet wound to the chest.

Eight others were killed Saturday as the Syrian security forces continued a clampdown on anti-government protesters in several areas of the country, according to the London-based Syrian Human Rights Observatory.

The crackdown targeted the restive city of Homs and suburban areas in the province of Idlib near the border with Turkey, said the group.

It added that the government forces had arrested at least 31 people in Idlib while hunting down defectors from the intelligence service.

Elsewhere, security forces backed by tanks stormed the district of Al Qusair in Homs in search of wanted activists, reported the opposition Local Coordination Committees.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford warned against a worsening situation in the country as violence continued with no let up.

"I worry a great deal when people say that sectarian civil war can?t happen here ? it reminds me of what I heard in Iraq in 2004," said Ford, who spoke by video from Damascus to a seminar on Syria at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Ford, however, said he did not think that sectarian conflict was inevitable, adding that Syria had grown increasingly unstable after seven months of protests and government crackdowns.

More than 3,000 civilians, including at least 187 children, have been killed in Syria since protests erupted in mid-March, the United Nations said on Friday.

On Saturday, al-Assad issued a presidential decree to set up a national committee to draft a new constitution in the country, reported the state news agency SANA.

According to the decree, the committee must complete its mission within a period not exceeding four months from the date of issuing the decree and it has the right to consult whoever it finds appropriate to accomplish the mission, SANA said.

The move is part of a package of political reforms promised by al-Assad, who is facing unprecedented protests against his 11-year rule.

SANA also said that an armed group had attacked a bus heading from Damascus to the northern city of Aleppo, injuring the driver and several passengers.

Syrian authorities blame "gangs of armed terrorists" for the unrest that is gripping the country.

Lebanese soldiers uncovered a cache of machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades hidden inside a van driving towards Syria, the state-run Lebanese National News Agency reported Saturday.

The army seized the truck Friday on the Halba-Khraibeh road in the Akkar region, 140 kilometres north of Beirut.

The Lebanese news agency reported the weapons were to be smuggled into Syrian-Lebanese border towns.

The van was thought to be owned by a Lebanese man from the area of Wadi Khaled, where at least 5,000 Syrians have sought refuge since the uprising against al-Assad's regime erupted.

Syrian troops this week were deployed along the northern border with Lebanon to stop Syrian refugees and army deserters from fleeing into Lebanon, and to keep an eye out for weapons smugglers.

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