Syrian forces kill 2; provincial heads replaced

AP News
Posted: Oct 23, 2011 11:18 AM
Syrian forces kill 2; provincial heads replaced

Syrian security forces on Sunday flooded into villages where residents have been on strike and shot two people dead in a central region of the country, activists said,

As the violence continued, President Bashar Assad replaced the governors of two provinces that have been centers of the uprising against his regime.

The regime dispatched reinforcements to pacify several villages in the south of the country whose residents have been on strike since Thursday, said the Observatory and the Local Coordination Committees, another activist network.

A video posted online by activists showed most of the shops closed in the southern village of Khirbet Ghazeleh. The LCC said there were also strikes in villages in the southern province of Daraa.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces shot dead two people early in the day in the village of Qalaat al-Madeeq in the central province of Hama.

The observatory also said gunmen on Sunday kidnapped a professor, Mohammed Khaddour, who heads the Chemical Engineering Department at the Baath University in the flashpoint central city of Homs. It said the gunmen shot dead an army officer who tried to rescue him.

The kidnapping of Khaddour, a member of Assad's Alawite sect, is the latest attack on prominent figures in Homs. In recent weeks, there have been several killings of prominent people in Homs, including a nuclear engineer, university professors and physicians. Most of those targeted were members of minority sects such as Alawites, Christians and Shiites.

The Associated Press could not verify the activists' accounts or the contents of the videos. Syria has banned most foreign media and restricted local coverage, making it impossible to get independent confirmation of the events on the ground.

Syrian state TV reported that Assad named Yasser al-Shoufi, a former police general, as governor of the northwestern province of Idlib. Assad also appointed Hussein Makhlouf as the governor of the Damascus countryside, which includes the Syrian capital's rebellious suburbs.

Assad has replaced nearly half of the country's 14 governors since the uprising began in mid-March.

The provinces of Idlib, which borders Turkey, and the suburbs of Damascus are among the regions of Syria which have witnessed large scale anti-regime activity since the uprising against Assad's government began more than seven months ago.

The regime has responded with a brutal crackdown. The U.N. says more than 3,000 people have been killed.