Middle East

Syrian troops 'kill mourners in Homs assault'

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Security forces have opened fire at a funeral procession in the volatile Syrian city of Homs killing 10 people, activists say.

Witnesses said the shooting took place outside a mosque during funerals for people killed in the past 24 hours.

Amateur video posted on the internet shows a crowd taking part in the procession before gun fire breaks out.

International journalists have been denied access to Syria, making it difficult to verify reports.

Human rights groups and activists say dozens of people have been killed in Homs since Saturday.

The Local Co-ordination Committees, which helps organise anti-government protests, said shooting erupted outside the Khaled bin al-Waleed mosque shortly after noon local time (1000GMT) as families held funeral processions for 10 people killed the previous day.

The mother of one of those being buried was among the victims, activist Mohammed Saleh told AP news agency.

Another Homs resident said snipers were positioned on rooftops, monitoring the largely deserted streets.

"We haven't slept since yesterday," he told AP by telephone, with the sound of machine-gun fire in the background.

Image caption Syria's official news agency has released images of what it says are funerals of policemen in Homs

"I am lying down on the floor as I talk to you. Other people are hiding in bathrooms."

Intense gunfire was reported overnight in Homs, with one resident telling Reuters there were "troops and armoured vehicles in every neighbourhood".

The latest violence is part of a crackdown on the four-month anti-government uprising in the country.

"The irregular forces with [the troops] are death squads," an unnamed resident told Reuters by phone.

"They have been firing indiscriminately since dawn with rifles and machine guns. No-one can leave their homes."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 30 people died in sectarian fighting on Saturday and Sunday, following the discovery of the mutilated bodies of three regime supporters.

The supporters were reported to be Alawites - the minority sect to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.

However, the Syrian National Human Rights Organisation said that only seven people were killed in the weekend attacks, which it said were carried out by security forces.

Human rights groups say that about 1,400 civilians and 350 security forces personnel have died since the protests began.

The government blames the unrest on "armed criminal gangs" backed by a foreign conspiracy.