Middle East

Syria security forces 'open fire at Kurd's funeral'

Mishaal al-Tammo pictured in Facebook page
Image caption Mr Tammo, as pictured on a Facebook page set up by supporters

At least 14 people have been killed in Syria after security forces opened fire on mourners as they attended funerals of people who died on Friday.

Six were killed in the north as they attended the funeral of a prominent Syrian Kurdish opposition figure.

Mishaal al-Tammo was shot dead by masked gunmen in a targeted killing.

About 50,000 people attended the funeral in his home town of Qamishli, which turned into a protest against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says that it was probably the biggest demonstration the Kurdish areas of the north have witnessed since the uprising broke out nearly seven months ago.

"All of Qamishli is out today, the funeral is turning into a massive protest," Kurdish activist and lawyer Mustafa Osso told the Associated Press.

Saturday's violence is likely to further inflame anger in Kurdish areas, where the killing of Mr Tammo seems to have had a galvanising effect, our correspondent says.

He adds that the incident threatens to harden Kurdish opinion against the regime, which is being widely blamed for the killing. It had been trying to woo the Kurds, an important minority, by granting nationality to a large number who had remained stateless for historical reasons.

The opposition has accused the regime of killing Mr Tammo. One group described it as a "dangerous turning-point" in the regime's handling of the uprising.

Mr Tammo was expected to play a leading role in the recently-established opposition Syrian National Council, which includes most anti-government groups.

'Regime tactics'

The official Syrian media reported that he had been killed by "armed terrorist groups" because of his opposition to foreign intervention in Syria. Either way, most Kurds and activists - and their supporters abroad - seem to be convinced his death was the work of the Syrian government, says our correspondent.

It is a view shared by the US state department which blamed the Syrian authorities for the deaths, reportedly calling the killing a "clear escalation of regime tactics".

Mr Tammo's son and a fellow Kurdish political activist were also wounded in Friday's shooting, reports said.

Mr Tammo was in the Kurdish Future party and had recently been released after spending more than two years in jail.

He was a vocal critic of Mr Assad and had also angered powerful Kurdish parties.

Mr Assad granted nationality to thousands of stateless Kurds in eastern Syria in April in a bid to address some of the grievances fuelling opposition to his regime.