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Syrian crackdown widens

BEIRUT — At least 10,000 Syrian protesters have been detained in the past several days in a mass arrest campaign aimed at quelling a seven-week uprising in Syria against the government of President Bashar Assad, activists said Tuesday, as security forces sent more reinforcements to restive cities and towns across the country.

The Syrian government widened its crackdown on Tuesday to include more cities and towns. Activists in Syria said army troops, backed by tanks, entered Hama, in central Syria, and several southern villages near Daraa, the impoverished and besieged town in a region known as the Houran that has become a symbol of the uprising.

"The big question now is what's next," said Wissam Tarif, executive director of Insan, a Syrian human rights group. "They are about to announce victory, but what will happen when they pull the troops out?"

At least seven people were killed in demonstrations on Monday night — three in Maadamiyah, a Damascus suburb, and four in Deir al Zour, a town in northeastern Syria, he said.

"The people are very angry and they swear they will be protesting again," a resident who lives near Othman bin Affan mosque in Deir al Zour told the New York Times by telephone. The protesters were killed in front of the mosque, which security forces closed two weeks ago to worshipers to prevent them from organizing demonstrations.

Heavy gunfire was also heard Tuesday in several southern villages, including Inkhil, Dael, Jassem, Sanamein and Nawa. Activists reported casualties though the numbers were difficult to ascertain, given the difficulties in communication and the Syrian government's suppression of independent news gathering. Phones have been cut in most besieged towns and cities.

The military operations came as activists called for daily protests across the country on the Facebook page of Syrian Revolution 2011, an Internet-based opposition group.

"The Tuesday of solidarity with prisoners of conscience in the jails of the Syrian criminal regime," the page said. "The demonstration will continue every day."

Syrian crackdown widens 05/10/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 11:51pm]
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