Last Updated: Sun Aug 28, 2011 10:33 am (KSA) 07:33 am (GMT)

Six more protesters killed in Syria, Arab League says force ‘pointless’

Syrian forces killed at least two protesters on Saturday as tens of thousands of people marched again to demand the removal of President Bashar al-Assad. (Photo by REUTERS)
Syrian forces killed at least two protesters on Saturday as tens of thousands of people marched again to demand the removal of President Bashar al-Assad. (Photo by REUTERS)

Syrian security forces fired on protesters in several cities on Saturday night, killing four people in Aleppo, one in Damascus and another in Idlib, according to local Co-ordination Committees of Syria (LCC) activist network. Meanwhile, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said it was “pointless” to use force against uprisings, in a clear allusion to the crisis in Syria.

In the industrial hub city of Aleppo, police forces have lost control of the situation and have requested military assistance in cracking down on protesters, the Coordination Committees reported.

Syria’s Interior Ministry had warned inhabitants of Damascus not to demonstrate “for their safety,” after some of the most intense protests in the capital since the start of the six-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

“The Interior Ministry calls on the brother citizens not to respond to social Internet sites to participate in rallies or assemble in public squares in Damascus. This is for their safety,” a statement by the ministry published on official media said.

Syrian forces fired live ammunition to prevent thousands of protesters from marching on the centre of Damascus from eastern suburbs earlier, witnesses and activists said, seriously injuring at least five people.

Militiamen loyal to Assad, known as ”shabbiha,” also fired live ammunition at worshippers who tried to demonstrate outside the al-Rifai mosque in the Kfar Sousa district of the capital, home to the secret police headquarters. Assad loyalists also beat the mosque’s preacher, popular cleric Osama al-Rifai, who was treated with several stitches to his head, witnesses said.

One demonstrator was also killed and 10 hurt when club-wielding security forces attacked a group of people leaving prayers at the Rifai mosque in the capital’s western quarter of Kafar Susseh, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Among the wounded was the imam of the mosque, Osama al-Rifai.

The Local Coordination Committees confirmed the death, but said 12 people had been injured.

Demonstrations were also reported in the northern Damascus quarter of Roukn Edinne and in Zabadani, 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of the capital, the Observatory said.

Separately, the Observatory said one person was killed and five wounded in Kafar Nabel, in Idlib province of northwest Syria.

Force ‘pointless’

Meanwhile, Arab League chief Arabi said on Saturday experience had proved “the security option and recourse to force are pointless against revolutions and uprisings demanding radical change when these demands are legitimate.”

Arabi was opening the first meeting of foreign ministers of the 22-member Arab League to discuss the crisis in Syria, where Assad’s regime is trying to suppress mass protests with the use of deadly violence.

“We must react positively to the demands of Arab youth,” he said, as “the rapid implementation of reforms” were the way to avoid “foreign intervention.”

An Arab diplomat said earlier the ministers would warn Syria they would no longer remain silent on its deadly crackdown on dissent.

The meeting, being held in the absence of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, also readmitted Libya, suspended in February after strongman Muammar Qaddafi ordered a bloody crackdown on protesters.

Mahmud Jibril, number two in the victorious rebel National Transitional Council, took over Libya’s seat and the rebel flag replaced Qaddafi’s green standard.

The diplomat said the Arab League was not considering the suspension of Assad’s government, which is clinging to power five months into a nationwide uprising that has left more than 2,000 dead.

But ministers agreed ahead of Saturday’s meeting to pressure Syria for an immediate end to military operations against protesters.

To this end they would be sending a mission consisting of Arabi and the foreign ministers of six countries to Damascus on Sunday.

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