Shocking amateur video shows police opening fire on a peaceful sit-in
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Syrian opposition activists have posted a particularly grizzly video on the Internet showing screaming protesters fleeing live fire in the Syrian city of Homs. They say it is proof that troops are opening fire on unarmed anti-government demonstrators.
Syrian opposition activists have posted a particularly grizzly video on the Internet showing screaming protesters fleeing live rounds in the Syrian city of Homs. They say it is proof that troops are opening fire on unarmed anti-government demonstrators.
According to several media reports, security forces opened fire on a crowd during an overnight sit-in on Monday, April 19, in Homs, an industrial city near the Lebanese border known as the bastion of the liberal professions in the country. Witnesses said police unsuccessfully tried to disperse a gathering of up to 20,000 during the day, then attacked the demonstrators after nightfall, when the crowd had dwindled to about 2,000. Foreign journalists have mostly been expelled from the country, thereby making it impossible to verify the situation on the ground, but according to eyewitnesses at least 8 people were killed.
More than 300 people have been killed across the country since the uprising began five weeks ago. But the relentless crackdowns have only served to embolden protesters, who started with calls for modest reforms but are now increasingly demanding President Bashar al-Assad's downfall.
Malfunctioning phone networks and a growing climate of fear have virtually prevented Syrians from communicating with journalists abroad. After trying unsuccessfully to reach our Observers in Homs over the phone, we were able to contact two residents on Skype. The following account has been confirmed by both.
Police open fire on protesters in Homs on April 19, 2011. Video posted on YouTube by Shoofee.
"A cleric received a warning call shortly before the attack. ‘Leave, or you will all be killed’, he was told."
Mona (not her real name), 22, is a student at Homs University. She lives minutes away from New Clock Square, where the video was filmed.
The attack occurred around 2am. I was asleep, but the sound of gunfire woke everyone in the house. It was so loud, like a thunderstorm of bullets. Although we couldn’t go out (we would have been killed), I heard exactly what had happened from three different people, friends and relatives, who were present at the demonstration.
That day, the protesters were happy because for once, the authorities hadn’t stopped them from gathering, and thousands of people had successfully rallied in New Clock Square. There were women as well as men, people brought food, blankets and mattresses, they were determined to launch a long-term sit-in with rotating shifts.
After nightfall most people left the square, only a couple of thousand remained. They didn’t know that snipers were posted on rooftops all around them [according to our second Observer, more were hiding in a nearby cinema].
Shortly beofre the attack, a religious leader who is very well-liked and respected among the protesters [our second Observer identified him as Sheikh Sahl Junaid] received a warning call. ‘Leave, or you will all be killed’, he was told. The cleric grabbed a loudspeaker and called on the protesters to evacuate the square. He told the crowd: ‘You are like my sons and I love you’, but the protesters grew angry. They thought he was abandoning them. A guy jumped up and took the speakers, encouraging the people to stay. The Sheikh shouted: “They will kill us all!” A few minutes later, the snipers began opening fire from all sides.
My relative told me another thing: as the protesters were running away, men in trucks drove up to them and said ‘quick, jump in! Take cover in the trucks!’ Many did, but in fact the trucks were driven by more secret service men, and those who got into the trucks were kidnapped and beaten. Some came back after several days, but many were killed. [Our second Observer also reported protesters being taken away in trucks, but this could not be independently verified]."
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Lorena Galliot.