International

Syria May Ease Martial Law But Troops Still Fire Toward Protesters

An elderly man sits near a burnt-out building in Latakia on March 27, 2011. i i

An elderly man sits near a burnt-out building in Latakia on March 27, 2011. ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images
An elderly man sits near a burnt-out building in Latakia on March 27, 2011.

An elderly man sits near a burnt-out building in Latakia on March 27, 2011.

ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is supposed to make a major statement sometime in the next couple of days. The timing and topic are hazy but there's speculation he'll lift Syria's onerous state of emergency rule, which is nearly 50 years old and gives security troops wide latitude to do as they wish.

Reporter Phil Sands of The National is in Damascus; he told Morning Edition there's been no sign of Syrian political reform, only promises. Phil writes the Syrian military is fanning out in Latakia, where protesters were shot and killed on Friday. The Syrian government blamed 'armed gangs' for that violence. Phil adds there could be efforts to stir sectarian violence; Latakia is home to Sunni Muslims and Allawites, a minority group of the Shiite Muslim faith.

Reuters says Syrian troops have fired on hundreds of protesters gathered in the southern Syrian city of Deraa. AP's witness says troops are firing into the air but they are also using tear gas, and some 4,000 people are jammed in the central part of the city.

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