Syria's Deadly Crackdown On Protesters Continues

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Defying growing international condemnation, Syrian security forces continue their bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters across the country. A U.S.-based human rights group says injured protesters are afraid to seek treatment in government-run hospitals, for fear of being detained and beaten.

MICHELE NORRIS, host: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, host: And I'm Melissa Block.

In Syria, the crackdown on protesters continued today after Friday prayers. That's despite a visit this week from the Turkish prime minister and promises by the Syrian regime to pull troops out of the restive city of Hama.

NPR's Kelly McEvers has been following the story from Beirut. She sent this report.

KELLY MCEVERS: Activists say at least 15 people were killed in cities and towns around Syria today, as security forces fired live ammunition on those who oppose the government. The government had taken Turkish journalists on a tour of the protest city of Hama, to show that the Syrian army had pulled out of the city after hundreds of protesters were killed there since Ramadan began earlier this month.

But the reporters said they saw armored vehicles at checkpoints and snipers posted on rooftops. Activists say one of these snipers shot and killed a man who was known to oppose the government.

Here's Wissam Tarif of the Avaaz Human Rights Groups.

WISSAM TARIF: He was leaving the mosque and he was shot in the head. It was kind of execution. They targeted him.

MCEVERS: Tarif says more people were killed in the eastern city of Deir al-Zout, in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus, and in a northern region near the border with Turkey. There, Tarif says, a pregnant woman was also shot by snipers.

TARIF: She wasn't in a protest. She was leaving her home. And she was shot in the upper part of the body, which is chest and neck, and she died instantly.

MCEVERS: So, he says, did her baby. This video from the northern city of Homs was filmed by activists today. It shows men in uniform firing rifles towards protesters who yell "God is great."

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOTS)

MCEVERS: A U.S. -based human rights group says injured protesters are now afraid to seek treatment in government-run hospitals in Syria, for fear of being detained and beaten. More than 40 people were injured today.

In addition to pressure from Turkey, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has come under incrementally increasing pressure from the U.S., to stop the violence against protesters. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on Europe and China to step up sanctions by targeting Syria's oil and gas industries, and on Russia to halt the sale of arms to Syria. She says the U.S. wants to build a chorus of condemnation from around the world, before demanding that Assad step down.

Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Beirut.

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