Syria denies pounding district in Latakia

Updated: 2011-08-15 10:09


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DAMASCUS - Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) denied Sunday media reports that Syrian gunboats pounded the impoverished al-Ramel neighborhood in Latakia with heavy machine guns.

Law-enforcement members are hunting down armed men, who responded with machine guns, grenades and explosive devices in al-Ramel neighborhood, SANA said.

Those armed men are terrorizing people, sabotaging public and private properties and firing machine guns and explosive from rooftops, it said.

The agency quoted the head of the health department in Latakia as saying that hospitals in the city had received bodies of two law-enforcement members as well as other four of unidentified gunmen.

Residents of al-Ramel neighborhood had made distress calls for the authorities to put an end to the gunmen practices, said SANA.

Meanwhile, the Doha-based al-Jazeera TV cited activists and witnesses as saying that Syrian gunboats firing heavy machine guns pounded the al-Ramel neighborhood in Latakia, killing at least 21 people.

It is difficult to verify the activists' accounts as journalists are banned from heading to restive areas.

The Syrian leadership has come under a crescendo of international condemnation over its alleged crackdown on opposition protesters as well as its military operations in restive cities.

The U.S. broadened its sanctions on the Syrian leadership on Wednesday, which affected the state-run Commercial Bank of Syria and its Lebanon-based subsidiary, the Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank.

Sanctions were also imposed on Syria's largest Mobile phone provider Syriatel because, according to David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, it is controlled by "one of the regime's most corrupt insiders."

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday called for an "immediate halt of all bloodshed and violence" against the protesters in Syria, the White House said.

The Syrian authorities have repeatedly brushed off the international pressures as "interference in the country's affairs" and blamed the violent acts on armed thugs and ultraconservative Muslims who want to establish Islamic emirates nationwide.

The Syrian government pledged that there would be no letup in its crackdown on those gunmen to restore stability and security to the country.


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