Thursday, June 16, 2011

Syrian tanks ring restive northern towns of Maarat al-Numan and Khan Sheikhun

Syrian tanks and armoured vehicles have reportedly reinforced their positions around the northern town of Maarat al-Numan, prompting more residents to flee President Bashar al-Assad's brutal crackdown on dissent.

Residents and a Syrian rights group said on Thursday dozens of tanks and personnel carriers also deployed around Khan Sheikhun, a town about 30km south of Maarat al-Numan on the main north-south highway linking Damascus and Aleppo.

"Dozens of tanks, armoured cars, personnel carriers and army trucks have been deployed at entrance points to Khan Sheikhun, and soldiers have started going in" to the northwest town near Hama, said rights activist Rami Abdulrahman.

Despite being globally condemned, al-Assad has continued to send troops to flashpoint cities and towns to suppress protests against his one-party rule.

Syrian rights groups say 1,300 civilians and more than 300 soldiers and police have been killed since the protests, inspired by Arab uprisings which toppled leaders in Egypt and Tunisia, broke out in March against 41 years of rule by the Assad family. (read more)