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Syrian forces fire on funeral procession

BEIRUT — Syrian security forces fired on a funeral procession in a restive northwestern border region, killing two people and raising Tuesday's death toll to at least 28, activists said.

The flare-up of violence in Idlib province highlighted how Syria's uprising, which earlier this year involved mostly peaceful demonstrations in small towns and cities, has become a virtual insurgency in the countryside along the Turkish border.

In Damascus, a prominent U.S.-born Syrian blogger and press freedom campaigner was charged Monday by Syrian authorities with trying to incite sectarian strife, her organization said.

The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression in the Arab World said Tuesday that Razan Ghazzawi also was charged with spreading false information and weakening national sentiment — a charge often leveled against those who challenge the Syrian regime.

The charges could carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years. The statement issued Tuesday by the SCM, where Ghazzawi worked, said she denied the charges.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and other Syrian activists said thousands of people were taking part in the funeral in the city of Idlib of civilians killed there earlier in the day when the gunfire erupted.

Regime forces swept through villages in the area near the Turkish frontier and attacked infiltrators at the border, and anti-regime fighters staged a retaliatory ambush and assassinated a senior officer earlier Tuesday, the reports and Syrian media said.

The bloodshed in Syria, which the U.N. said Monday has left at least 5,000 dead, has resulted in increasing pressure on the regime of President Bashar Assad, including sanctions by the United States, the EU and the Arab League.

Syrian forces fire on funeral procession 12/13/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 7:20pm]
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