Syrian troops in Deraa, mourners demand freedom
Damascus, March 21, 2011
The Syrian army deployed on Monday at the entrances to the southern city of Deraa as officials tried to calm passions following protests for freedom in which five civilians died, residents said.
Thousands of mourners marched at the funeral of 23-year-old Raed Al-Kerad, the latest protester to be killed by security forces on Sunday. Mourners chanted slogans demanding political freedom and an end to corruption.
The mourners later gathered at the Al-Omari mosque in the old quarter of Deraa near the border with Jordan.
Troops set up checkpoints at the entrances of Deraa and were checking identity cards.
Meanwhile, human rights organisations said Syrian security forces unleashed a wave of "arbitrary detentions" and "excessive force" in cities where anti-regime protests flared in recent days.
"Eleven people were detained Friday after a demonstration outside the Omayyed mosque in Damascus, and several others were arrested in the port city of Banias," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
On Wednesday, 32 demonstrators were arrested in Damascus at a peaceful rally calling for the release of political prisoners and accused the next day of "attacking the reputation of the state" and "inciting racism and sectarianism."
Security forces on Saturday arrested "dozens of protesters" in Daraa, where thousands attended the funerals of two of four people killed on the previous day's violent crackdown against protests, a rights activist said.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch Monday said: "The Syrian government has shown no qualms about shooting dead its own citizens for speaking out," said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East and North Africa director.
The US-based rights watchdog said in a statement that "Syria should cease use of live fire and other excessive force against protesters" following the violence in Daraa.