Syrian dissidents brace for backlash after `massacre`

Last Updated: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - 17:04

Damascus: Syrian dissidents were Tuesday fearing a harsh backlash after the authorities warned of a forceful response to what they said was a massacre of 120 policemen in the town of Jisr al-Shughur.

A Turkish diplomat told AFP in Ankara meanwhile that one person died from gunshot wounds when 41 refugees fleeing unrest in Syria crossed the border into Turkey over the weekend.

"Scores of military vehicles loaded with soldiers are travelling on the Harasta highway... They are probably headed to Jisr al-Shughur for a new massacre... Please be careful," the Syrian Revolution 2011, an anti-regime Facebook group spurring protests, posted Tuesday.

It advised pro-democracy activists in areas facing a crackdown by security forces and "gangs of the regimes" -- especially in the northern Idlib province -- to parry potential assaults by "burning tyres" and "blocking roads with stones and wood."

The group, which plays a central role in setting the tone and theme of protests that erupted against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad mid-March, called for fresh protests on Tuesday.

It dubbed it a day "of resurrection."

"The time of treachery is over," the group wrote on its page which has garnered 199,700 supporters online.

"Our revolution is peaceful, we want freedom, dignity and life. We do not endorse any foreign party or organisation," the group wrote.

"We do not call to battle and refuse to bear arms against our brothers in the Syrian army. We call on them to protect us and defend us against the shootings by agents" of the regime.

State television said on Monday the policemen were killed by "armed gangs" but rights activists said there had been a mutiny in the northwest Syria town where security forces had been carrying out operations for three days.

"The armed groups are committing a real massacre. They have mutilated bodies and thrown others into the Assi river," the state broadcaster said. "They have burned government buildings."

It said a total of 120 police were killed, including 80 at the town`s security headquarters, without specifying the date of the incidents in Jisr al-Shughur.

Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim al-Shaar warned in a statement read on television that the authorities would hit back.

"The state will act firmly, with force and in line with the law. It will not stay arms folded in the face of armed attacks on the security of the homeland," he said.

Two activists who spoke by telephone to AFP in Nicosia said the town was calm on Monday, and spoke of a mutiny at a local security headquarters, where shooting was heard the day before.

"I think they executed policemen who refused to open fire on demonstrators. There was a mutiny in the security service," one said.

The other told AFP that "shooting followed by an explosion was heard in the military HQ, apparently after a mutiny."

Monday`s reports came a day after at least 40 people were killed, including 35 in Jisr al-Shughur, said the head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman.

He said 27 civilians and eight security agents were killed in the town as security forces pressed sweeps targeting anti-regime protesters in Idlib province.

The Turkish diplomat said dozens of Syrians had fled across the border in southern Turkey`s Hatay province at the weekend.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - 17:04

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