20 Killed as Syria Forces Sweep through Homs

Syrian security forces killed at least 20 people on Wednesday, including 17 in a tank-backed raid on the flashpoint city of Homs, activists said.

The Local Coordination Committees, which organizes the anti-regime protests on the ground, said 17 people were killed in the central city of Homs, one in Hama to the north and two in Sarmin, Idlib province.

The forces used "gunfire and stun grenades to terrorize the people near the police headquarter around the citadel at the downtown," the LLC said in a statement sent to Agence France Presse.

The activists said forces backed by tanks swept early morning into Homs, where communications and Internet services were cut in many neighborhoods.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said "military reinforcements including 20 truckloads of soldiers entered the city," and that there was "intense gunfire in the market and governorate headquarters."

"Many ambulances were roaming the streets of the city," it added.

Heavy machinegun fire was heard in the Bab Dreib and Bostan Diwan neighborhoods of Homs after 2,000 protesters had set out for the area following the deaths of four people near the city on Tuesday.

The activists said demonstrations also took place in several other parts of the strife-torn country, including Hama, but that a massive clampdown prevented rallies in the port of Latakia.

The United Nations says 2,200 people have been killed since democracy protests flared in Syria in mid-March.

Syria's regime, which has promised to launch a wide range of reforms to appease the protesters, blames the unrest on foreign-backed "armed terrorist gangs."

Source: Agence France Presse

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