Death toll from Syrian army attack on Deraa rises to 40

11:25, 26 April 2011
World
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The number of those killed in Monday`s assault by Syrian troops on the country`s southern town of Deraa has risen to 40, with dozens reported wounded, Al Jazeera has said, quoting opposition activists, according to RIA Novosti.

Troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by tanks and armored vehicles, entered the town on Monday, taking up positions in its centre and deploying snipers on rooftops. Twenty-five people were previously reported to have been shot and killed in the operation.

A curfew has been imposed in Deraa, and electricity and telephone communication have been shut down. The regular water supply to the town has also been cut off, a local resident told Al Jazeera.

Syrian officials said the troops were deployed in the town at the request of local residents to protect them from armed terrorist gangs.

Mass protests started in Deraa, on the border with Jordan, on March 18 in response to the arrest of a group of schoolchildren who wrote anti-government graffiti on some walls. The unrest later spread to other Syrian regions.

More than 350 people have been killed in protests across the country, according to the Syrian opposition. Some army officers were reported to have defected to fight against the government, Al Jazeera said.

According to witnesses, Syrian forces also stormed the Damascus suburb of Duma on Monday, shooting at unarmed civilians and arresting residents.

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