Activists: Syrian troops hunt protesters, kill 5

AP News
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Posted: Oct 22, 2011 12:13 PM
Activists: Syrian troops hunt protesters, kill 5

Thousands of Syrian security forces fanned out Saturday through suburbs of the capital Damascus in search of regime opponents, while five others were killed in raids across the country, activists said.

The raids came as the Arab League's secretary general announced that the 22-nation organization would dispatch a delegation to Syria next week to persuade it to stop firing on protesters.

The British-based Syrian Observation for Human Rights said some 5,000 soldiers and policemen set up checkpoints and conducted house-to-house searches in the Damascus suburbs of Zamalka, Hammouriyeh, Irbin and Saqba.

The Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees, another activist network, said five people were killed in the central city of Homs, in the northern Idlib province and in the countryside near the central city of Hama on Saturday.

The raids come a day after 25 people were reported killed across the country when security forces fired on anti-regime protesters who poured into the streets, energized by the death of Libya's Moammar Gadhafi.

The U.N. says more than 3,000 people have died since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad began in mid-March.

The Observatory also said it had documented a total of 114 civilian deaths and arrest of more than 2,100 people so far this month in Homs alone. The city is a center of anti-Assad activism.

In an indication of growing pressure on Assad from other Arab states, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said on the sidelines of a World Economic Forum conference in Jordan that an Arab ministerial committee led by the prime minister of Qatar will travel to Damascus next Wednesday.

The League met in Cairo last week and gave Syria until the end of this month to enact a cease-fire and start a national dialogue with the opposition, pledging to meet again to consider new options should Syria refuse.

The committee was tasked with making contacts to start a national dialogue between Syrian officials and the opposition that would take place at the League's headquarters in Cairo.

Damascus seems to have agreed to the Arab mission through gritted teeth, as it is loathe to grant any right to outsiders to interfere in what it considers its internal affairs and Qatar, in particular, has been critical of the Assad regime's crackdown. Damascus also has insisted that any discussions with the opposition take place on Syrian territory.

However, Syria has not curbed its crackdown in response to previous Arab or international initiatives, and its acceptance of the League mission is very likely simply a delaying action.

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AP writer Jamal Halaby contributed to this report from Southern Shuneh, Jordan.