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      Assad Calls Off Hama Siege

      Troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad pulled out of the central city of Hama after a bloody 10 day siege.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 8/10/2011, 9:16 PM

      Ten days days after storming the central protest city of Hama to fight "armed groups" the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad are pulling out.

      Forty personnel carriers decked with Syrian flags rolled out of Hama with soldiers chanting slogans praising  the embattled Assad, an AFP journalist who visited the city said.
       
      "With our blood and our soul we sacrifice ourselves for you, Bashar," some chanted as others recited slogans saying their allegiance rests with "God, Syria, Bashar."  
      Troops backed by tanks stormed Hama on July 31, on the eve of the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, to crush dissent.
       
      Activists said at least 140 people were killed that day, including 100 in Hama, in the bloodiest day since Assad's regime launched its deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests that have swept the country since mid-March. 
       
      The pullout comes as Arab nations, who long remained silent over the bloody crackdown, began recalling their ambassadors from Syria and calling for an end to the violence in the country.
       
      But elsewhere in Syria the bloodletting continued unabated as Assad gunmen launched attacks on towns near the Turkish border. At least 11 were killed Wednesday in Homs.
       
      On Tuesday Assad pledged a relentless battle against "terrorist groups" as world pressure on his regime to stop the crackdown mounted, with Arab states joining the fray and neighbours like Turkey and Iraq piling on the pressure.
       
      Hama, a city with a bloody past, has been at the forefront of the uprising against Assad and his Baath party which has ruled Syria for nearly 50 years.
       
      In 1982, an estimated 20,000 people were killed in Hama when the army put down an Islamist revolt against the rule of Assad's late father, Hafez.