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Syrian troops detain thousands amid protests across country

BEIRUT — Syrian troops detained hundreds more people in towns across the country on Monday as they pursued their relentless crackdown against the stubbornly persistent protest movement that has swelled in recent weeks to challenge the government.

Troops backed by tanks sealed off the Damascus suburb of Moadamiya in the small hours of the morning, and residents heard gunfire as soldiers conducted house-to-house raids looking for people who had joined in recent antigovernment demonstrations. Witnesses said they saw nine busloads of prisoners being taken away, said Wissam Tarif of the human rights group Insan.

There were also reports of more than 300 arrests in the central city of Homs, where three neighborhoods have been sealed off by the military since Friday.

In Baniyas, about 400 men are being held at the town's football stadium after soldiers went house by house over the weekend detaining every man between the ages of 18 and 45, according to Rami Abdelrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which maintains contacts in the country.

Many houses in Baniyas are empty because their occupants have fled, and the soldiers looted belongings and smashed furniture in those homes, he said.

According to Tarif, the latest arrests bring to more than 10,000 the number of people who have been taken into custody since the antigovernment demonstrations first erupted in March, with more than 700 people reported killed, most of them shot down while protesting.

Yet even as the crackdown spreads and intensifies, citizens in other parts of the country are continuing to go out onto the streets to hold demonstrations, usually in the evenings.

"When they close down one city, the protests start in another," said Abdelrahman, predicting that the opposition movement would not give up. "People can't go back to how things were before."

Elsewhere

EGYPT: About 1,000 Egyptians protested violence against the country's Coptic Christian minority after Muslim mobs burned a church and sparked riots in Cairo that left 13 people dead. Demonstrators say they fear that some in Egypt seek to replace ousted President Hosni Mubarak's three decades of autocratic rule with an Islamic state that would marginalize Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's nearly 80 million people.

YEMEN: Yemeni security forces opened fire on demonstrators and launched rocket-propelled grenades at an office building, killing three people as they crack down on a protest in the city of Taiz in the country's south.

Information from the Associated Press and Washington Post was used in this report

Syrian troops detain thousands amid protests across country 05/10/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 12:27am]
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