Syrian forces storm town near border: residents

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 14, 2011 2:10 AM
Syrian forces storm town near border: residents

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian tanks stormed a border town overnight, residents said Sunday, in the latest assault to crush a three-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad that has driven thousands of refugees into Turkey.

"Tanks came from the south after shelling randomly and sending volleys of machinegun fire all over the town. People are still fleeing from the north," a resident of Jisr al-Shughour, a strategic town set in hills on the road between Syria's second city Aleppo and the main port of Latakia, said.

Witnesses said loyalist forces commanded by Assad's feared brother Maher deployed near Jisr al-Shughour this week.

They began attacking villages and burning crops in a scorched-earth policy designed to break the will of the local residents who had participated in protests demanding democracy an end to Assad's autocratic rule.

The authorities say the aim was to combat "terrorist saboteur groups" who had killed scores of security forces.

Damascus has banned most foreign correspondents from Syria, making it difficult to verify accounts of events. Turkey also has restricted access to refugees in camps and hospitals, saying it is to protect their privacy.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; Editing by Michael Roddy)