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Death toll in Syria rises to 25, as Assad forces mount crackdown on opponents

Government troops on Monday killed 25 people in separate hubs of protest against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, activists told Al Arabiya. They said that the highest death toll was reported in the city of Homs, when ten people have been killed by the fire of security forces.

In Beirut, witnesses said that the security guards of the Syrian embassy attacked a group of Syrian protesters.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in emailed statements received by AFP in Nicosia that four civilians died in the central city of Homs when security forces opened fire on a protest outside the home of a detained activist, Mansur al-Arassi.

Others were killed outside a mosque in the Khaldiyeh sector of the city by attackers who opened fire from a vehicle, the Britain-based Observatory said. It said 39 people were wounded in the two incidents.

In the Damascus region, one person was killed in the town of Zabadani, where security forces earlier arrested 25 people, including three young women.

The Observatory said the death occurred when security forces fired on people after they left a mosque and began protesting in the streets calling for the release of detainees.

In Idlib province of northwest Syria, two people were killed in Khan Sheikhun near the border with Turkey when security forces fired live rounds to break up a protest, the Observatory said.

Firing at funeral procession

Earlier in the day, security forces opened fire on a funeral procession for an activist in the oil-rich east.

“Syrian security forces in Deir al-Zor fired live bullets at a funeral procession for Ziad al-Obeidi,” the rights watchdog said.

“Some 7,000 people took part in the funeral which turned into a demonstration calling for the fall of the regime,” it said.

Obeidi, 42, was killed by security forces who were hunting for him in Deir al-Zor province. He had gone into hiding in August during military operations in the area.

Security forces on Sunday carried out raids and arrests in the flashpoint central province of Homs and in the outskirts of Damascus, with 19 people arrested in Dmeir, the Observatory said.

Also in the Damascus region, 25 people were arrested, including three young women, in the town of Zabadani, it said.

The official news agency SANA, meanwhile, said an “armed terrorist gang” ambushed and killed two security agents in the city of Hama, a hotbed of dissent and focal point of a 10-day military operation in August.

It said two cars filled with arms were seized on the Homs-Tartus road and four “members of armed terrorist gangs” arrested. Thirty-four other wanted people were detained in Homs, the agency said.

A campaign of sweeping arrests has rounded up a total of 923 people over the past week, according to the Observatory.

A coalition of 121 Arab and international rights groups on Sunday urged the Arab League to take action on Syria to prevent it from sliding into civil war, as Arab foreign ministers met in Cairo.

In a joint statement, activists called on the League to suspend Syria’s membership, downgrade Arab diplomatic missions in Damascus and to back action against Damascus at the U.N. Security Council.

Arab League meeting

The Arab League formed a committee to look into what it called the catastrophic and the sad situation in Syria, the league said. The committees' mission is to contact the Syrian leadership to stop the violence and to start a dialogue between the Syrian government and opposition, the statement said. It said the dialogue should start within 15 days.

Syria’s government responded on state television that its capable of administering its affairs and security by itself.

Ahead of the emergency meeting, a group of foreign ministers headed by Qatar’s representative debated ways in which to pressure the regime of Syrian President Assad into ending its deadly crackdown against protesters, Egypt’s state- run Middle East News Agency said.

At least 4,000 Syrian civilians have been killed by security forces, according to Ammar Qurabi of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria.

The United Nations published a lower death toll on Oct. 14 of more than 3,000, including at least 187 children.

President Assad’s regime blames “armed gangs” for the violence that has wracked Syria for the past seven months, but activists say most of the deaths are caused by security forces putting down non-violent protests.

A Damascus court, meanwhile, decided to release on bail Mazen Adi, a leading opposition figure who was detained on May 11, his lawyer said.

“The criminal court of Damascus decided on Sunday to free Mazen Adi, leader of the (banned) People’s Democratic Party on 30,000 Syrian pounds (600 dollars) bail,” said his lawyer Michel Shammas.