Syria set to end emergency rule

Last Updated: Monday, March 28, 2011 - 19:49

Damascus: Streets in Latakia, scene of
Syria`s latest deadly violence, were deserted on Sunday, while in
Damascus President Bashar al-Assad readied to announce the end
of emergency rule in place since 1963.

Funerals for a number of the victims of deadly
shooting in the northern port city -- some believed to be the
work of snipers -- were planned for today as schools and
businesses closed their doors.

"The city is calm this morning, but the shops are all
closed and employees have not gone to work," said Issam
Khoury, a journalist based in Latakia, 350 kilometres
northwest of Damascus.

"Most schools are closed as well and parents have
decided not to send their children to any classes," added
Khoury.

The government of Assad, who is now under domestic
pressure unprecedented in his 11-year rule, has announced a
string of reforms in a bid to quell a rising wave of dissent
against his rule. He is expected to address the people of
Syria in the days to come.

Buthaina Shaaban, a top adviser to Assad, yesterday
said authorities had decided to end the state of
emergency, which came into effect when the ruling Baath party
rose to power almost 50 years ago.

But it remains unclear what the decision will entail.

"The decision to lift the emergency law has already
been made. But I do not know about the time frame," Shaaban
said.

Syria`s emergency law imposes restrictions on public
gatherings and movement and authorises the arrest of "suspects
or persons who threaten security."

The law also authorises interrogation of any
individual and the surveillance of personal communications as
well as official control of the content of newspapers and
other media before publication.

Activists estimate that some 130 people have been
killed in the Syria protests, which began in Damascus on March
15 but quickly fizzled out, taking root instead in the
multi-confessional city of Latakia and the southern
governorate of Daraa, a tribal area on the Jordanian border.

Syrian officials say 15 people have been killed,
including two insurgents, and 185 wounded in Latakia since
Friday.

Troops deployed in force in the once-scenic coastal
resort, home to 450,000 people, where residents have erected
barricades to protect their neighbourhoods against armed gangs
that have taken to looting and vandalism.

Journalists` access to Latakia has been severely
restricted, but one shopkeeper contacted by AFP said residents
there heard gunfire from automatic weapons until midnight on
Sunday.

Bureau Report



First Published: Monday, March 28, 2011 - 19:49

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