Gangs of armed young men roam Syrian city

LATAKIA, Syria — Gangs of young men, some armed with swords and hunting rifles, roamed Sunday through the streets of a Syrian seaside city, closing alleys with barricades and roughly questioning passersby in streets scarred by days of antigovernment unrest.

The scenes in Latakia, a Mediterranean port once known as a summer tourist draw, were a display of anarchy in what had been one of the Mideast's most tightly controlled countries.

Syria has been rocked by more than a week of demonstrations that began in the drought-parched southern agricultural city of Daraa and exploded nationwide on Friday, with security forces opening fire on demonstrators in at least six places and killing dozens.

The government has tried to calm the situation with concessions, and President Bashar Assad is expected to announce Tuesday that he is lifting a nearly 50-year state of emergency and moving to annul other harsh restrictions on civil liberties and political freedoms.

Member of Parliament Mohammed Habash told the Associated Press that lawmakers discussed the state of emergency during a Sunday night session and Assad would make an announcement about the issue Tuesday. He offered no further details.

Meanwhile, the Reuters news agency reported that two of its staffers had been missing in Syria since Saturday night, saying Beirut-based producer Ayat Basma and camera operator Ezzat Baltaji had been expected to cross into Lebanon by road and be picked up by a taxi. Reuters said it had asked for Syrian officials' help in securing the journalists' safe return.

Shift in yemen: President Ali Abdullah Saleh, clinging to power despite weeks of protests, scrapped an offer to step down by year's end on Sunday. Opponents rejected his offer a week ago to leave by the end of this year. Its formal withdrawal indicates that an attempt by both sides to negotiate a transfer of power to end the crisis has failed.

Gangs of armed young men roam Syrian city 03/27/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 27, 2011 11:38pm]

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