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Killing of Syrian Kurdish leader risks increased violence

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets of a Syrian city on Saturday for the funeral of a Kurdish opposition leader whose assassination the day before unleashed fury in the country's Kurdish regions and threatened to open a new theater of opposition to President Bashar Assad's rule.

The crowds attending the funeral of the leader, Mashaal Tammo, a prominent figure who had escaped an attempt on his life only a month before, constituted some of the biggest gatherings in weeks in the nearly seven-month uprising against Assad. Activists said at least five people were killed when security forces opened fire on the funeral in Qamishli, a city in northeastern Syria, risking an even broader confrontation with a Kurdish community the government had tried to avoid provoking.

Tammo, 53, was a respected activist who had been released last summer after spending more than three years in prison. Activists and relatives said he was killed by four masked gunmen who stormed his house Friday, and they blamed government forces for his death.

Founder of the liberal Kurdish Future Movement Party, Tammo had angered both the government and rivals in the Kurdish community with his outspoken support for a pluralistic democratic state, in which Kurds would be an essential component.

The Syrian news agency blamed an "armed terrorist group" for Tammo's death, a phrase it often deploys to underline its view of the uprising as an armed insurgency led by militant Islamists.

Killing of Syrian Kurdish leader risks increased violence 10/08/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 8, 2011 9:29pm]
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