Syrian forces injure scores trying to topple statue

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 05, 2011 8:44 AM
Syrian forces injure scores trying to topple statue

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian forces injured scores of people when they fired at 7,000 demonstrators who marched overnight in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor to topple a statue of late President Hafez al-Assad, residents said on Sunday.

"The crowd reached President's Square when it was met by ... bullets from the security police and armored cars that had deployed there to prevent the 'sanam' (false deity) from being toppled," a witness told Reuters, referring to the 6-meter stone statue.

Another resident said protesters had first gathered around the house of Mouath al-Rakkad, a 14-year-old boy who was shot dead on Friday during a demonstration against the rule of Assad's son, President Bashar al-Assad.

"The big statue is about the only one left standing in Deir al-Zor. All the other busts and statues of Hafez I know of had been toppled," said the resident, a doctor who practices in the city.

Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria with an iron fist for 30 years until his death in 2000, when Bashar al-Assad succeeded him., keeping intact the autocratic political system.

Human rights groups say security forces, troops and gunmen loyal to Assad have killed at least 1,100 civilians in attacks on protesters and in military assaults and sieges of cities to try and crush street demonstrations since they erupted in southern Syria in March.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis)