More Syrian troops sent to Daraa

April 30, 2011 at 4:44 PM

DAMASCUS, Syria, April 30 (UPI) -- The Syrian government Saturday dispatched four tanks and 20 armored vehicles to the rebel stronghold of Daraa and shelled the Omari mosque there.

Protests and clashes continued elsewhere in the country. Government forces fired on protesters in at least 50 communities, The Guardian reported.

Abdallah Abazid, a resident of Daraa, told The New York Times four more people were killed Saturday, including the son of the mosque's clerical leader, Sheik Ahmed al-Siasnah. He said the son was gunned down by troops looking for his father.

At least 73 people were killed Friday in Daraa. President Bashar al-Assad's troops isolated the city Monday, cutting electricity.

"It is a matter of a few hours only, and everything will be finished in Daraa," a pro-government politician said from Damascus. "It is impossible for the Syrian regime to let some people announce a Salafi emirate in Daraa. This is not Afghanistan."

Since large protests began in Syria, Assad has tried a policy of concessions and crackdowns. He met with a delegation of religious leaders, including Siasnah, three weeks ago.

Large-scale protests were reported in Damascus for the first time Friday. In one Damascus neighborhood, a protester who didn't want to be identified told The Guardian 17 buses filled with armed security personnel showed up as demonstrators gathered.

Assad's response to the unrest came under criticism by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, which late Friday approved an investigation into the Syrian government's use of force against its citizens.

Additionally, the United States imposed sanctions on Syria's intelligence agency and one of Assad's brothers and a cousin for their alleged roles in rights suppression, the report said.

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