Thursday, March 24, 2011

As unrest spreads, Syrian government promises to respond

(CNN) -- Tensions boiled in a volatile Syrian community Thursday as thousands turned up for the funerals of people killed in unrest. Meanwhile, Syria's government blamed the instability on outsiders and announced plans to study popular demands, including the lifting of the country's decades-old emergency law.

Syria is the latest in a string of Arabic-speaking nations beset with discontent over economic and human rights issues. Syrian discontent centers on Daraa, a southern city in the impoverished country's agricultural region, where violence has been escalating between security forces and anti-government protesters since late last week.

Wissam Tarif, executive director of the human rights organization Insan, said at least 34 people have been killed in Daraa in the past two days. Other activists believe many more have been killed.

Tarif said as many as 20,000 people followed the funeral procession for those who died in the violence, including a conscripted soldier who was reportedly shot and wounded because he refused to fire on demonstrators.

A witness, who asked not to be named, said 10 "martyrs" were buried following afternoon prayers, with the people in the procession mourning the loss of the victims and chanting anti-government slogans.

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