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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Hundreds Reported Arrested in Syria Crackdown

VOA News May 09, 2011

Rights activists say Syrian forces arrested hundreds in house-to-house raids in flashpoint cities Monday, while the intensified military crackdown also spread to a suburb in the capital, Damascus.

Tanks patrolled the streets of the coastal city of Banias and the central city of Homs, where witnesses say security forces killed 14 people on Sunday. Gunfire echoed in a Damascus suburb Maadamiyeh.

Syrian rights groups say the arrests targeted anti-government protest leaders and participants. They also say more than 630 civilians have died in the unrest since it began in mid-March, and as many as 8,000 people are either missing or detained.

President Bashar al-Assad was quoted in Al-Watan newspaper Monday as saying the government will overcome the "crisis" in Syria and advance administrative, political and media reforms. The newspaper, which is close to the government, said the army recently had fought "fierce battles" with "armed groups" in Banias.

Reports are difficult to independently confirm because Syria has banned foreign media and restricted reporter access to many parts of the country.

On Sunday, soldiers detained more than 200 in Banias and swept into several southern towns.

The detentions in Banias, including the arrest of a 10-year-old child, come a day after troops killed six people in the sealed-off city of about 50,000 people.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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