Gunfire, random arrests reported in Syria

Aug. 9, 2011 at 7:02 AM
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DAMASCUS, Syria, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Heavy gunfire was heard across Syria Tuesday as witnesses and activists say Syrian forces were making arbitrary arrests in two parts of the embattled country.

Activists said heavy shooting broke out in the eastern town of Dier Ezzor, were arbitrary arrests were made and at least two people were killed, and Syrian forces attacked the northeastern town of Sirmeen on several fronts, CNN reported.

The latest reports of violence came amid growing calls from the international community for President Bashar Assad's regime to end its brutal crackdown against pro-democracy protesters.

At least 2,379 people have died since Syria's uprising began in mid-March, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria said Tuesday. Of them, 1,991 were civilians and 388 were security personnel, it said. The organization said its death toll was based on numbers it could confirm; however, the Syrian government has restricted international journalists' access to the country, and independent confirmation was unavailable.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu arrived in Damascus Tuesday to meet with Syrian officials, his office said.

Mark Toner, a U.S. State Department spokesman, said Monday Davutoglu's visit offers another opportunity to send "yet another strong message" demanding that Assad end the violence.

The Syrian government warned about what would happen if Davutoglu makes a firm statement.

"If the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is to deliver a firm message to Syria, he will hear a firmer reply regarding the Turkish stance which didn't condemn the brutal killing and crimes committed by the armed terrorist groups against the civilians, military and police members till now," the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency quoted Syrian presidential adviser Bouthina Shaaban as saying. "Syria has always welcomed consultation among friends, but it categorically rejected all regional or international attempts at interference in its internal affairs."

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Syria to discuss the situation Monday, CNN said.

"There is no justification for the bloodshed in Syria, and what is happening has nothing to do with religion or ethics," Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said in remarks on state television Monday. "The Syrian leadership could activate comprehensive reforms quickly."

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