War over but troops will stay, says Syria

Assad has declared the campaign to unseat him 'over'. Picture: Getty
Assad has declared the campaign to unseat him 'over'. Picture: Getty
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SYRIA has claimed the year-long revolt to topple president Bashar al-Assad is over.

However, the regime said it would keep its forces in cities to “maintain security” until it is safe to withdraw in line with a United Nations-backed peace deal.

Damascus made its claim as opposition activists reported 21 people were killed yesterday and five bodies, including those of children, were found bearing signs of torture.

The agreement proposed by UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan stipulates that Assad must be first to withdraw troops, and cease fire immediately.

The United States and its Gulf Arab allies urged Annan yesterday to set a timeline for “next steps” if the bloodshed persists. Saudi Arabia has repeated a call for rebels to be armed.

Annan has said neither move would be helpful. The former UN secretary-general’s mission has brought no respite in the bloodletting.

Meanwhile, 21 people were killed in Syria, including protest singer in Kafr Ruma, who was killed when his house was raided. A young man and his sister were shot dead when state forces stormed their village, and a man died of gunshot wounds inflicted during a protest in Damascus.

Army artillery and mortars pummelled the Khalidiya district of Homs city, killing one. Six deaths were reported in Homs province, two killed by snipers and two in crossfire.

“Mortars are falling every minute and the sounds of explosions are shaking the [Khalidiya] neighbourhood,” said the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group. A child died in a rocket attack on the al-Bayyada area of Homs and a man was killed near a checkpoint.

In southern Deraa province, five were killed by machine-gun fire in Kharbat Ghazaleh and three died from wounds sustained in clashes on Friday. Rebels killed six soldiers, including a lieutenant colonel in Deir al-Zor, activists said.