2 May 2011

Busloads arrested in Syrian city, say residents

9:00 am on 2 May 2011

Syrian authorities are carrying out a wave of arrests in the city of Deraa in their latest move to crush protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, residents say.

The residents said on Sunday they had seen packed busloads of handcuffed and hooded young men being taken in the direction of a large detention centre in the city run by the security services.

A witness told Al Jazeera television that security forces had divided the southern Syrian city into four sections, each cut off from the others, and had gathered all the detainees in schools and were preparing to transfer them.

Reuters cited a lawyer saying the authorities were arresting all males over 15 years of age.

President Assad sent troops backed by dozens of tanks into Deraa on 25 April to silence revolt against his 11-year rule.

Protests began there in March and have escalated into an uprising in the country of 20 million people which is now into its seventh week.

Power and communications in Deraa have been disrupted. On Saturday, tanks shelled the old quarter and security forces stormed the Omari mosque, a focal point for protests.