Syria declares amnesty in bid to quell growing unrest

The Syrian regime pledged to free scores of people detained in the recent wave of protests, excluding only those convicted of “criminal acts.” Recently appointed Prime Minister Adel Safar also announced formation of a new government on April 14. Meanwhile, snipers shot dead a soldier and wounded another in Banias, state news agency SANA said, a day after a deal was struck for the army to restore order there.

London-based activist Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), said there was a deal on “between Syrian officials and city residents for the army to enter Banias imminently to restore order. Security agents will refrain from patrolling neighborhoods to make arrests, and the hundreds of people arrested in Banias will be released.”

Banias was the scene of deadly unrest over the weekend. Government forces killed at least four people and wounded 17 when they strafed a residential area of the town with gunfire for hours, according to witnesses. Nine soldiers were later killed when their patrol was ambushed outside the town, SANA said. Hundreds were reportedly arrested in Banias and the nearby village of Baida. (Middle East Online, April 14)

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