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While Gunfire Echoes Inside Syria, A Cry For Help From A City Under Attack

Renee Montagne speaks with Omar Shakir

With heavy machine gun fire in the background as he spoke from the Baba Amr section of Homs, Syrian citizen journalist and blogger Omar Shakir told Morning Edition co-host Renee Montagne earlier today that "we are asking for [an] SOS" and help from the International Red Cross to stop what he said has been the deadly shelling of his city by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.

"There is no one with us," Shakir said.

And during the conversation, he had a message for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who is in Syria for talks with Assad. Over the weekend, Russia and China blocked a draft resolution from the U.N. Security Council that would have condemned the Assad regime for the killing of Syrians in the past year and would have urged the Syrian president to step aside. Now Russia is trying to play some sort of diplomatic role in the crisis.

"I just want this Russian guy to come here inside Baba Amr," Shakir said, "and sleep one night if he can. ... We cannot sleep. ... We cannot find food. ... I just want him to come here inside Baba Amr and suffer as we suffer and see what we see."

People there have seen in the past three days, Shakir added, the deaths of "more than 60 martyrs" — Syrians killed in the shelling and gunfire aimed at the citizens of Homs by army forces.

Because independent journalists are not allowed to move about freely in Syria, news outlets are depending on reports from people as Shakir and on information collected by international human rights groups to offer a picture of what's happening inside Syria — where, according to the United Nations, government forces have killed more than 5,000 people in the nearly 12 months since protests against the regime began. Much of what people inside Syria report cannot be independently verified at this time, but they have been able to post a lot of information and videos on the Web to support their accounts. Ahmed Al Omran, a production assistant on NPR's social media desk, is curating news from Homs on his Twitter page.

According to al-Jazeera, "Lavrov began his meeting with Assad by saying that Moscow wanted the Arab people to live in peace. 'Every leader of every country must be aware of his share of responsibility. You are aware of yours,' Russia's state-run RIA quoted Lavrov as saying at the talks in Damascus. 'It is in our interests for Arab peoples to live in peace and agreement,' he continued. Lavrov was expected to use his visit to press Assad into implementing democratic reforms after Russia and China vetoed any UN-backed measures against the Syrian government over its crackdown on the 11-month uprising."

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