Syrians flee city after siege takes lives

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The Independent Online

Carrying mattresses and bags of clothing, Syrians fleeing their homeland described a "catastrophic" scene yesterday in a besieged border town that has been largely sealed off as the army tries to crush a two-month uprising.

At least eight people were killed on Sunday in Talkalakh – the most recent casualties from a government crackdown that has already killed 850 people nationwide since mid-March, according to the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria. A town of about 70,000 residents, Talkalakh has been under a military siege since last week.

"The situation in the city is catastrophic," said Ahmad, 55, who crossed the border into Lebanon on Monday night and asked to be identified only by his first name. "If you walk in the streets of Talkalakh you can smell the dead bodies."

Authorities justified the siege by saying the city was full of Islamic extremists who wanted to form an Islamic state, residents said.

More than 5,000 Syrians have fled to Lebanon in recent weeks as Syrian President Bashar Assad's security forces try to crush an uprising against his regime with gunfire, sieges and shelling.

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