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Bloodshed shows no signs of ebbing in Syria

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 3:12 PM EDT, Fri September 30, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Official media reports say 7 troops and law enforcement officers die in clashes in Al-Rastan
  • Another 9 -- including 3 civilians -- are killed in Homs, Douma and Hama, adds SANA
  • An activist group says that 13 are killed by security forces, including 7 in Homs
  • The U.S. ambassador to Syria says he was attacked by eggs, concrete and more

(CNN) -- Violence continued to reverberate around Syria on Friday -- with the government claiming 13 military and law enforcement members plus three civilians had died, while an activist group said its tally showed 13 dead.

Since protests began in March, demonstrators have demanded true democratic elections and the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Middle Eastern government claims its security forces are battling terrorists, intent on targeting civilians and fomenting unrest.

Almost 3,000 people have died in the government's crackdown, according to some accounts. CNN is unable to independently confirm death tolls or events in Syria, which has restricted access to many parts of the country by international journalists.

The Local Coordinating Committees of Syria, an opposition activist group, wrote in an e-mail statement Friday that an additional seven people had been killed in Homs, two in the Hama suburb of Kafarzeta and two in the Damascus suburb of Qudsaya. One each died in Douma and Damascus, according to the group.

These deaths come on the heels of another 49 fatalities over the previous two days in western Syria, the same group previously reported.

On Friday, the LCC also detailed what it described as dire humanitarian conditions and other developments in several locales.

That includes a shortage of water, food and medication in Al-Rastan, where there was also an appeal for blood donations and medical help after persistent raids and arrests, the group said. On Friday, government forces were shelling a dam and bridge on the city's east side.

Army troops in armored personnel carriers have raided the town of Kafr Awid, said the LCC. And security forces were also arresting people in Qudsaya, outside Damascus.

Syrian authorities likewise reported 16 deaths on Friday, according to several stories from the state-run SANA news agency.

One hotbed of violence appeared to be Al-Rastan, where an official military spokesman told SANA that seven army and law enforcement personnel -- including two police officers -- were killed while confronting "armed terrorist groups who had terrified citizens in Al-Rastan, crippled life in the city ... and killed civilians."

The spokesman on Thursday vehemently denied TV news reports that warplanes had raided the city, while adding that troops had arrested several "armed groups' members" and taken their weapons and ammunition.

In another SANA report published Friday, a police source in Homs said the day earlier that three law enforcement members were shot dead in an ambush.

Plus, three members of a military engineering unit died while trying to dismantle an improvised explosive device in Douma, a police source said. The bomb was in a place where large numbers were set to gather after Muslim prayers on Friday for protests, according to SANA.

And in Hama, the news agency reported that three civilians died after gunmen opened fire near law enforcement members.

Meanwhile, the fallout continued Friday from an incident the previous day in which the U.S. ambassador to Syria was attacked by members of a pro-government group. Robert Ford, who has been outspoken against the Syrian government's use of violence against demonstrators, is seen by pro-government supporters as an activist more than a diplomat.

Dozens had gathered outside while he was meeting with Hassan Abdul Azim, head of the opposition Arab Socialist Democratic Union.

In a Facebook post Friday, Ford said he respected "peaceful protest" -- including by pro-government factions to express their opposition to him and U.S. policy -- but insisted that Thursday's incident was "not peaceful." He described demonstrators wielding iron bars; throwing tomatoes, eggs and concrete blocks; attacking embassy vehicles; and trying to break into Azim's office.

"Americans understand that we are seeing the ugly side of the Syrian regime, which uses brutal force, repression and intimidation to stay in power," Ford wrote.

"We deeply feel for the Syrian families that are enduring the violence, killings and torture and pain. We hope that Syrians find solutions to the crisis soon, but we strongly doubt that the regime's terrorizing the population will end the crisis."

Besides formally expressing its "disgust with the attack," the U.S. government has demanded "full compensation from the Syrian government for damages inflicted on U.S. government vehicles," the U.S. State Department said Friday.

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