32 killed in Syria protests, Damascus moves-activists

AMMAN,  (Reuters) – Syrian forces killed at least 32  civilians yesterday, including 23 in the capital Damascus, in an  intensifying crackdown on protests against President Bashar  al-Assad, activists said.

It was the highest death toll in the central neighbourhoods  of Damascus since the uprising erupted four months ago in the  southern Hauran Plain near Syria’s border with Jordan.

“Tens of thousands of Damascenes took to the streets in the  main districts for the first time today, that is why the regime   resorted to more killings,” said one activist by telephone from  Damascus. He declined to be named for fear of being arrested.

The killings prompted the opposition to cancel their planned  National Salvation conference in Qaboun neighbourhood of  Damascus on Saturday after security forces killed 14 protesters  outside a wedding hall where the conference had been due to take  place, opposition leader Walid al-Bunni told Reuters.

“Secret police also threatened the owner of the wedding  hall. We decided to cancel the meeting to save lives,” Bunni  said by telephone from Damascus.

Bunni said prominent opposition figures and activists would  still hold a separate conference in Istanbul on Saturday.

The rest of those killed in Damasacus were in Barzeh, where  one protester had died, and in Rukn al-Din quarter of the city,  where security forces fired protesters killing eight people.

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