Passenger train derails in Syria; 1 killed
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Last Updated: Sunday, July 24, 2011, 00:02
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 peaceful.

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.


First Published: Sunday, July 24, 2011, 00:02

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