At least 16 Syria protesters killed on Ramadan Friday

Fri Aug 5, 2011 7:14pm EDT
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By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian security forces killed at least 16 civilians in attacks on tens of thousands of protesters demonstrating against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad on the first Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, activists said.

A six-day tank assault on the central city of Hama to crush pro-democracy demonstrations there has killed at least 300 civilians, the Local Coordination Committees, an activists' group, said, citing refugees from the conflict.

The Syrian Revolution Coordinating Union said government forces shot dead two protesters and wounded 12 after evening Ramadan prayers in the Maydan district of central Damascus, which has become a focal point of demonstrations despite the deployment of ultra-loyalist Republican Guards in the area.

Security forces also fired at people protesting after evening prayers in the capital's suburbs of Harasta, Douma and Daria, residents said.

Tanks shelled the city of Hama for a sixth day. Hama residents feared higher casualty figures than the 135 estimated killed since the military assault began Sunday on the city of 700,000 people in central Syria.

The Syrian protesters are defying a bloody military crackdown on uprisings that began in March against some 41 years of Assad family domination.

U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to consider further steps to pressure Assad over his crackdown, the White House said, without elaborating on the measures to be taken.

The United States extended sanctions against Syria on Thursday to include a prominent businessman in the fourth round of sanctions which have targeted Assad, his brother Mahir, top government officials and security forces.   Continued...

<p>EDITOR'S NOTE: REUTERS CANNOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE CONTENT OF THE VIDEO FROM WHICH THIS STILL IMAGE WAS TAKEN A protester crouches near the body of a man lying on the ground in Hama in this still image taken from video posted on a social media website on August 4, 2011. REUTERS/Social media website via Reuters TV</p>