At least 24 killed in Syria, Russia criticises EU ban
Security forces killed three people in northwest Syria on Saturday as a punitive EU oil embargo came into effect, a day after anti-regime protests which activists said cost 21 lives.
The latest crackdown by Syrian forces comes despite the European Union slapping Damascus with the embargo, in a move criticised by Syria's longtime ally Russia.
"Two men were killed and five wounded in Maarrat in Idlib region during an incursion by tanks and 50 buses carrying members of the security forces," said the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), which have activists on the ground.
The LCC said "another political activist from the central city of Hama was killed in the same way as the other two when the army opened fire on civilians who were watching the troops."
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said the latest security operation was "to hunt down wanted people," adding that according to an activist in the region, it was "intended to track down the attorney general Hama Adnan al-Bakkur who recently announced his resignation."
Bakkur, attorney-general for the Hama region, had announced his resignation in an Internet video broadcast Wednesday to denounce the repression.
Syrian authorities claim that an "armed gang" kidnapped Bakkur and was extracting "pure lies" under pressure.
The Observatory further said that on Saturday authorities had "put a body, which had visible signs of torture, of a resident from the town of Qusayr in front of his family home after detaining him for more than a month."
"The relatives of the young man refused the day before yesterday to take delivery of the body because the authorities asked them to sign a report accusing terrorist gangs of killing" him, the Observatory said, quoting an activist from Qusayr.
On Friday, widespread demonstrations were repressed by security forces, who killed at least 21 people, the Observatory said in a statement.
Nine people were killed in the Damascus area, nine in the central province of Homs and three in Deir Ezzor, eastern Syria, the Observatory said.
The victims, including a 16-year-old girl and an elderly woman, were killed as security forces opened fire to disperse thousands of anti-regime protesters out on the streets.
"We are ready to die as martyrs by the millions," activists wrote on their Facebook page, "Syrian Revolution," ahead of the protests. The LCC said protests would carry on "every day until the fall of the regime."
According to the United Nations, more than 2,200 people have been killed in Syria since the protests began on March 15.
An EU oil embargo against Syria went into effect on Saturday a day after its adoption by the 27-nation bloc to punish the government for its brutal suppression of the protest movement.
The EU also expanded its list of pro-government figures and firms targeted by an assets freeze and travel ban, adding four businessmen accused of bankrolling the regime and three firms, diplomats said.
The oil embargo will deprive Assad's regime of a vital source of cash as the EU buys 95 percent of Syria's crude exports.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticised the embargo, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.
"We have always said that unilateral sanctions will do no good. This destroys a partnership approach to any crisis," Lavrov was quoted as telling journalists at a regional summit in Dushanbe.
"We are against unilateral sanctions. Sanctions rarely solve anything in general," he added.
© 2011 AFP