Middle East

Syrian protesters 'attacked in Damascus mosque'

Anti-Assad protest in Amude (26 August 2011)
Image caption Protests have continued across Syria, despite President Assad's crackdown

Syrian security forces have attacked protesters at a mosque in the capital, Damascus, activists say.

Security officials stormed the al-Rifai mosque in the Kafar Susseh district, the activists said, reportedly wounding the mosque's imam.

Unconfirmed reports say at least one person was killed in clashes with troops on Saturday.

The UN says more than 2,000 people have been killed since protests against Syria's president began in March.

A video shot at the mosque shows protesters chanting "the people demand an end to the regime", and calling for the execution of President Bashar al-Assad.

As security forces stormed the mosque, protesters tried to barricade themselves in with bookcases and shoe racks, reports say.

The imam, Osama al-Rifai, who is in his 80s, is said to have been beaten up.

"Some of the 'amn' [security] went on the roof and began firing from their AK-47s to scare the crowd. Around 10 people were wounded, with two hit by bullets in the neck and chest," a local cleric told Reuters news agency.

AFP news agency quoted the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying one person was killed in the mosque attack. Other deaths in clashes were reported in Kafar Nabel, Qusair and Latakia, although these have not been confirmed.

The BBC's Jim Muir in neighbouring Beirut says after the mosque incident, other Damascus suburbs are reported to have staged protests in solidarity with the injured imam.

Most foreign journalists have been barred from Syria, making it difficult to verify reports from local activists and officials.

Rival drafts

The latest reported violence comes a day after a UN investigative team which visited Syria said there was "an urgent need to protect civilians" from excessive force.

The team, the first Syria has allowed in since the deadly crackdown on protests began, said there was no countrywide humanitarian crisis.

Syria had refused for months to allow a UN mission into the country to investigate the violence. The government allowed the team in last week, promising full and unfettered access.

"The mission concluded that although there's no countrywide humanitarian crisis, there is an urgent need to protect civilians from the excessive use of force," said UN spokesman Farhan Haq.

At the UN Security Council, the battle over what to do about Syria has heated up, says the BBC's UN correspondent Barbara Plett.

Russia and a group consisting of the US, France, Britain, Germany and Portugal submitted rival draft resolutions on Syria.

The Russian draft calls for the Syrian government to speed up reforms and for the opposition to take part in political dialogue.

The US-European draft calls for a freeze of President Assad's assets and an arms embargo against Syria.

Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the Western group was "stirring up the opposition" in Syria.

Our UN correspondent says there is no immediate plan for a vote on the rival drafts.

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