Syrian Troops Leave Daraa, but Arrests Start Elsewhere

Human rights group says 8K in custody or missing since protests began
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2011 8:32 AM CDT
In this image made on a mobile phone from the window of a car, two Syrian soldiers and an armed man in civilian clothes stand at a checkpoint in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, May 1, 2011.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Syrian troops slowly began to leave Daraa today, ending an 11-day siege against its citizens. But at the same time, security forces began rounding up people in the suburbs of Damascus, sweeping through the town of Saqba and arresting men between the ages of 18 and 50. Human rights groups tell the New York Times 286 have been arrested. In another suburb, Tal, one activist said at least 800 have been arrested over the past two days.

In Daraa, where protests first erupted against President Bashar Assad's regime, the state-run TV and news agency announced that the army had "carried out its mission in detaining terrorists," and would begin a "gradual withdrawal," according to the AP. Tanks and armored carriers remain on Daraa's streets, some residents tell the Times. And despite the crackdowns, which have killed more than 550 since the unrest began, activists say they intend to hold more protests in Daraa tomorrow, in a "Day of Defiance" against the government.

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