Syrian security forces clamp down on Damascus

Syrian security forces clamp down on Damascus Damascus: Syrian security forces deployed heavily on Sunday in a tense Damascus neighbourhood where a mourner was shot dead in the largest anti-regime rally seen in the capital, blunting calls for a "day of defiance."

With protesters becoming more and more emboldened in Damascus following 11 months of revolt which has largely escaped the capital, President Bashar al-Assad's regime also came under pressure Sunday from regional powers, with Egypt joining other Arab League countries in recalling its ambassador.

Although the security force deployment thwarted attempts by activists to stage new protests in Mazzeh neighbourhood, scene of a funeral yesterday that turned into a huge anti-regime rally, business there came to a halt, activists said.

Mohammed Shami, a spokesman for activists in Damascus province, said most shops were shut in Mazzeh as well as in the neighbourhoods of Barzeh, Qaboon, Kfar Sousa and Jubar.

Student demonstrations had been expected in Mazzeh but security forces were deployed around schools, Shami said. "Security forces are heavily deployed throughout Mazzeh," he added.

Another activist, Abu Huzaifa from the Mazzeh Committee, said police forced the family of Samer al-Khatib, 34, who died after being shot in neck during the mass funeral on Saturday, to bury him in a small ceremony earlier than planned, in an apparent move to head off demonstrations.

In central Damascus, shops were opened as normal, witnesses said, while state television showed live footage from Mazzeh interviewing people who claimed life was proceeding normally.

Deeb al-Dimashqi, a member of the Syrian Revolution Council based in the capital told AFP earlier that "huge demonstrations" were expected, adding however that Syrian forces had clamped tight security around the city.

"There is a large security presence," he said. In a message to Damascus residents on their "Syrian Revolution 2011" Facebook page, activists said: "The blood of the martyrs exhorts you to disobedience," after more than 6,000 people were killed since protests against the regime of erupted in March, according to activists.

Regime forces meanwhile pounded the flashpoint central city of Homs for 15th straight day today, killing at least four people, activists said, while official SANA news agency reported the murder of a prosecutor and a judge in northwestern Idlib province.