At Least 1 Dead as Syrian Forces Fire on Protesters


Human rights groups say at least one person has been killed after Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters Friday in the central city of Homs.

VOA’s Susan Yackee speaks with Nadim Houry, Human Rights Watch researcher in Beirut, Lebanon, about the organization’s findings in Syria:

The death came as tens of thousands of Syrians nationwide defied a government effort to stop anti-regime protests.

Security force officers and soldiers are out in force throughout Syria but big protest crowds were reported in several cities including suburbs of the capital, Damascus.

Activists monitoring the protests say security forces set up checkpoints and closed off areas in towns and villages where previous demonstrations have occurred.

Western news organizations quote activist Louay Hussein as saying President Bashar al-Assad had ordered security forces not to open fire on protesters. But it appears the order was violated in Homs.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the U.N.’s human rights office says reports from activists that the death toll from Syria’s unrest is probably in the range of 700 to 850 are “quite likely to be genuine.”  Rupert Colville said Friday that his office is urging Syria to exercise restraint.

World leaders have been reacting to reports about the deadly crackdown.  On Friday, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd announced his government plans to ramp up sanctions against key figures in Assad’s regime and impose an embargo on arms and other equipment.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued some of her strongest comments yet on the crackdown.  She accused President Assad’s government of engaging in “unlawful detention, torture and denial of medical care” to wounded people.

Opponents of Assad have been rallying for democratic reforms and an end to his 11-year autocratic rule. The protests began in southern Syria in mid-March and spread nationwide.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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