Syria crisis: Anti-government violence erupts after killing of prominent Druze cleric

Rioters destroyed the statute of the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad in Sweida city and besieged security offices, reports say

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The Independent Online

Anti-government violence has erupted in a southern Syrian province, a day after explosions killed at least 25 people, including a prominent cleric, activists and pro-government media said.

Sheik Wahid Balous, of the Druze minority sect, was a critic of President Bashar al-Assad who called on young people in the Druze stronghold of Sweida province, an area largely untouched by the country’s civil war, to refuse to serve in the military. He was also a critic of the Islamist group Isis. The cleric died on 4 September when a car bomb exploded.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists in Syria, said rioters destroyed the statute of the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad in Sweida city and besieged security offices, holding the government responsible for the cleric’s death. The Observatory said 37 people had been killed in the riots.

Elsewhere, at least 47 fighters were killed in clashes between Isis and rival Syrian rebels, the Observatory said, in an area where Turkey is planning to open a new front against the jihadists.

The fighting raged around the rebel-held town of Marea, about 12 miles from the Turkish border. The area falls within a “safe zone” that Turkey said last month it would set up in northern Syria to repel Isis.

AP

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