Gunfire heard around protest site in Syrian city

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 22, 2011 9:29 PM

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Heavy gunfire was heard in the early hours of Wednesday around the Omari mosque in the southern Syrian city of Deraa, where hundreds of protesters have gathered for the past six days.

"It seems that security forces may be trying to storm the complex. It is not clear because electricity has been cut off. Tear gas is also being used," said one resident, who declined to be named.

Cries of "Allahu Akbar (God is the greatest)" erupted across neighborhoods in the city.

Protesters calling for political freedoms and an end to corruption had said earlier that they were going to remain in the mosque until their demands were met.

The mosque's preacher, Ahmad Siasneh, told Arabiya television on Tuesday that Syrian forces were close to the building's grounds, where protesters had erected tents.

(Reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi and Khaled Yacoub Oweis)