Last Updated: Sun Sep 04, 2011 10:28 am (KSA) 07:28 am (GMT)

Syrian forces kill 23 in mass anti-Assad protests after Friday prayers

People take part in a protest against President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in Hama. (Photo by Reuters)
People take part in a protest against President Bashar al-Assad after Friday prayers in Hama. (Photo by Reuters)

At least 23 people were shot dead by Syrian security forces, backed by the army, when thousands demonstrated across the country against the Baathist regime’s crackdown on pro-democracy activists, according to Local Coordination Committees (LCC).

Protesters responded to calls posted on the Internet for nationwide anti-regime demonstrations after the weekly Friday prayers under the banner of “death rather than humiliation.”

LLC officials said demonstrators rallied outside the home of the attorney general of the flashpoint rebellious province of Hama in support of his reported decision to resign.

Mohammed Adnan al-Bakkour said in a contested video posted on YouTube late Wednesday that he has resigned in disgust at hundreds of killings and thousands of arrests by Assad’s regime.

He said he took the decision after hundreds of jailed peaceful demonstrators were killed by the authorities and buried in mass graves, and 10,000 were arrested arbitrarily.

But Syrian officials said he had been kidnapped and announced he was quitting under duress.

The LCC said in a statement that “huge demonstrations” from the Hama province villages of Kfar Nabudah and Karnaz formed outside Bakkour’s home “to support him.”

Another march took off from the northern city of Amuda, with protesters calling for the “fall of the regime” and some carrying signs “urging Russia to stop exporting sales to the regime,” the LCC said.

The marchers staged a sit-in in Amuda’s central square, it added.

Women took to the streets in the southern Syrian town of Jassem, in the Daraa province, where the pro-democracy protests shaking Syria since mid-March first broke out, the LCC said, adding that gunfire was heard.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported gunfire in Nawa, also in Daraa province, and spoke of injuries without elaborating.

“Security forces are blocking worshippers from leaving Al-Hajar Mosque to take part in demonstrations,” the Observatory said.

Protests also broke out in the central protest hub of Homs, the Observatory said.

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