Troops kill 31 ahead of Annan's Syria trip

Troops kill 31 ahead of Annan's Syria trip

Tanks pound rebel city

Syrian forces killed 31 people on Friday as they sought to quell demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad before a peace mission by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, opposition activists said.

Tanks pounded Karm al-Zeitoun and other opposition districts in the rebellious central city of Homs, killing nine, the Local Coordination Committees said, reporting 12 other deaths in Damascus and in the provinces of Hama, Idlib and Aleppo.

“Thirty tanks entered my neighbourhood on Friday morning and they are using their cannons to fire on houses,” said Karam Abu Rabea, a resident contacted in Karm al-Zeitoun.
Activists said nationwide protests were marking the anniversary of Kurdish unrest in northeastern Syria in 2004 that was crushed by security forces with about 30 people killed.

Many thousands of Kurds demonstrated in the northeast, YouTube footage showed, some carrying banners that read ‘Save the Syrian people’. Other clips showed hundreds of protesters in the Assali district of Damascus, burning posters of Assad’s father Hafez al-Assad and chanting ‘God damn your soul, Hafez’.

Syria’s state news agency SANA reported big pro-Assad demonstrations in Damascus and Hassaka in the northeast.

Tight media restrictions imposed by the authorities make it hard to assess conflicting accounts of events on the ground.

Street protests have swelled every Friday after Muslim prayers since the anti-Assad revolt erupted a year ago, despite violent repression by the military and loyalist militias.

Annan, who begins his peace mission in Damascus on Saturday, has called for a negotiated solution, but dissidents say there is no room for dialogue amid Assad’s bloody crackdown.

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