30 Dec 2011

Death toll rising in Syria

3:18 pm on 30 December 2011

The death toll in Syria continues to rise, even as Arab League observers tour the country.

Human rights groups now fear the Arab League mission is turning into a farce.

The ABC reports the shootings and killings have been taking place almost under the observers' noses.

After starting in the city of Homs on Tuesday, the Arab League monitors have moved to Idlib in the north, Deraa in the south, Hama and Damascus.

Activists say about 40 people have been killed by security forces in the past 24 hours, mostly in areas where monitors are visiting, including a Damascus suburb.

The activists have called for massive street protests following weekly Friday prayers.

Meanwhile, questions were being asked about the head of the Arab League mission, Sudan's Gen Mustafa al-Dabi.

Amnesty International says he was responsible for torture and disappearances in Sudan in the 1990s.

General Dabi's first comments in Syria were that he had seen nothing frightening, though he later said he needed more time to make an assessment.

The UN says more than 5000 civilians have died in 10 months of unrest in Syria.