Sunday, August 7, 2011

Syrian troops storm eastern and central towns

Syrian troops attacked the eastern city of Deir el-Zour, just before dawn Sunday, killing at least four people, in a bid to quell a five-month-old uprising against the government of President Bashar Assad, a human rights group said.

Activists said as explosions sounded, troops stormed in from all four sides and took control of eight neighbourhoods.

The attacks came a day after the country's foreign minister looked to allay protests demanding reforms by announcing that free parliamentary elections would be held by the end of the year.

The gesture is unlikely sooth the tensions in a battle in which the government's crackdown has left over 1,600 dead and drawn strong international sanctions and condemnation against Assad's regime.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least four people were killed when troops stormed Houleh, but the Local Coordination Committees, an activist group tracking the uprising, said seven people were killed in a bombing raid on the town. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the discrepancy.

Both regions have witnessed intense protests against Assad since the uprising began in mid-March. Syrian forces on Saturday tightened their siege on the city of Hama, a main centre for the uprising. (more)