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News Wrap: At Least 62 Reported Killed in Syria Protests

April 29, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Thousands of people in Syria defied a government crackdown to stage protests across their country today. A human rights group inside Syria reported security forces shot and killed at least 62 people.

We have a report narrated by Kylie Morris of Independent Television News.

KYLIE MORRIS: Under fire in the pro-democracy stronghold of Daraa, protesters attempt to drag to safety the body of a wounded man. It’s rare footage from a town under siege. One eyewitness told us the army opened fire when people from surrounding villages marched to the city gates.

Doctors speak of scores of bodies. But Daraa is shut down, and details
are difficult to confirm. An army division occupied it five days ago, killing as many as 50 people then. Our eyewitness spoke of residents imprisoned in their own homes with electricity cut and food supplies running short.

Even the U.N.’s patience is wearing thin the Human Rights Commission agreeing a resolution condemning the Assad regime.

KYUNG-WHA KANG, United Nations deputy high commissioner: Syria has a responsibility to protect its population from crimes against humanity and other international crimes. In this context, I should like to underscore that any official ordering or of — or undertaking of attacks against the civilian population can be held criminally accountable.

KYLIE MORRIS: Not only the U.N., but the E.U. now also considering fresh sanctions against the Assad government, encouraged perhaps by the massive demonstrations nationwide today.

Security forces fought back with tear gas when as many as 10,000 marched through the old district of Damascus. It’s the biggest protest in the city since demonstrations began six weeks ago. Demonstrators defied the regime’s will across the capital and beyond.

The Republican Guard patrolled the streets, closing roads across Damascus, but still protests erupted after Friday prayers across a number of suburbs. There were demonstrations, too, in the central cities of Homs and Hama, Banias on the Mediterranean coast, as well as Latakia and al-Qamishli in the country’s far east, not only declaring their opposition to the Assad regime, but also their solidarity with their countrymen in the besieged city of Daraa.

Despite the government’s brutal crackdown, no sign anywhere that the Syrian people have lost their appetite for change.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In Washington, the Obama administration announced new sanctions on Syria. They include financial penalties against the Syrian intelligence agency and three top officials of President Assad’s government.

In Yemen, hundreds of thousands of protesters filled a five-mile section of the main boulevard in Sanaa. They began — they again demanded that President Ali Abdullah Saleh leave office immediately. Elsewhere, police opened fire on protesters in a western port city. Witnesses said five people were wounded.

A new Pentagon report touts tangible progress by the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan. It’s the first assessment since 30,000 additional American troops were sent onto the battlefield last year. The semi-annual report to Congress cited enough progress to transfer control of seven regions to Afghan forces this summer.

Also today, NATO announced the deaths of three troops in separate incidents around Afghanistan. In all 48 have been killed this month.

NASA postponed the final launch of space shuttle Endeavour today after a glitch in a power unit. The crew members were headed to the launch pad when they were forced to turn around. Officials said the next attempt wouldn’t come until Monday, at the earliest.

Up to 700,000 people had been expected for the launch. They included
President Obama and Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head last January. The two met late today at Cape Canaveral. Giffords’ astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, will command the mission.

On Wall Street today, stocks finished with another rally. The Dow Jones   industrial average gained 47 points to close at 12,810. The Nasdaq rose one point to close at 2,873. For the month, the Dow gained 4 percent; the Nasdaq rose more than 3 percent.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.