Beirut: A passenger train derailed and
caught fire in central Syria on Saturday, killing the driver,
authorities said. The regime blamed the crash on "saboteurs"
tied to the country`s four-month-old uprising, but opposition
figures dismissed the accusation.
The train was carrying 485 people when it derailed
about 3 miles (5 kilometres) outside the central city of Homs,
a flashpoint in the uprising against President Bashar Assad.
The driver was killed instantly and 14 passengers were
injured, rail officials said.
Ghassan Mustafa Abdul-Aal, the governor of Homs,
called it a "terrorist and criminal" act and said it was a
"clear message" to everyone who says the protest movement is
No evidence was provided to support those claims.
The opposition dismissed the accusation and said the
regime was trying to seize on the crash to blunt growing
support for a peaceful uprising calling for democratic change.
"If there are saboteurs, they belong to the regime," Ammar
Qurabi, who heads the National Organization for Human Rights
in Syria, told The Associated Press. "They want to send the
message that these protests will lead to instability and
insecurity in the country."
Syrian authorities have unleashed a brutal crackdown
in an effort to crush the revolt, and activists say more than
1,600 civilians have died since the protests erupted in
mid-March. The government blames the unrest on terrorists and
foreign extremists, not true reform-seekers.