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Conflicting Reports Surround Daraa Mosque Attack

Contrary reports emerge after Syrian forces raid Daraa's Omari mosque, leaving at least four dead.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 3/23/2011, 9:07 PM / Last Update: 3/23/2011, 9:58 PM

Violence continues unabated in the southern Syrian town of Daraa, where bloody protests erupted last week, Voice of America News reports.

 

Syrian rights activists and local residence say at least six people were killed on Wednesday when security forces carried out a raid on Daraa's Omari Mosque, where anti-government protestors created a field hospital.

Syria's state media issued a contrary report saying four people were killed when an "armed gang" attacked a medical team. The state-run news service SANA said those killed were a doctor, a nurse, their driver, and one member of the state security forces. SANA also played a video of money and munitions inside the mosque they claim anti-government protesters had stored there, and it accused protesters of using children as shields.

While mosques are frequently erected on holy sites, including the holy sites of other faiths, mosques themselves are not inherently holy in Islam, and they have frequently been used to store munitions or launch terror attacks on civilians throughout the Middle East and Central Asia.

Daraa has been the site of several deadly clashes between anti-government protesters and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, where masked demonstrators demanding freedom have set cars ablaze during clashes with police while chanting "there is no God but Allah!"

Security forces killed four demonstrators in Daraa on Friday. Another demonstrator was killed Sunday, and an 11-year-old boy died Monday after inhaling tear gas. Seven Syrian police officers have also been killed in the clashes.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fired the governor of Daraa Province in a failed attempt to quell popular unrest on Tuesday. Since then, however, protests have reached several neighboring towns. It is the first real challenge to the 45-year-old president's rule since he inherited the country from his father, Hafez al-Assad in 2000.

George Jabour, a former member of the Syrian parliament, said he thinks President Assad should be worried, telling al-Jazeera, "I think he is concerned and will take action... I hope he will act on the justified demands of the protesters."

Protesters are demanding Assad terminate Syria's emergency law, curb the pervasive influence of Syria's security apparatus, free thousands of political prisoners, and allow freedom of expression. Syria has been under emergency law since the Baath Party took power in a 1963, effectively suspending most constitutional protections for citizens since that time .