Last updated: 23 January, 2012

Funerals draws 150,000 near Syrian capital

Funerals in Douma near the Syrian capital drew more than 150,000 people on Monday, marking the largest expression of mourning in the protest hub since a pro-democracy uprising began in March, activists said.

The processions accompanied the bodies of 12 people killed in the past three days, including three who died in detention, and gathered the “largest number of mourners in Douma since the start of the uprising,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Mourners chanted slogans in support of the Free Syrian Army, a group of defectors whose leadership is based in Turkey, according to a video posted on YouTube, one of the main channel’s used by local activists to report on events.

Activists say that forces loyal to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad are only deployed at the entrances of this rebellious town, located just 20 kilometres (12 miles), from the capital.

The Syrian authorities on Monday flatly rejected an Arab proposal calling for Assad to transfer power to his deputy to pave the way for a national unity government.

The funerals come after Syrian army deserters at the weekend seized control of Douma after fierce fighting, before withdrawing again to their bases, according to the same source.

The clashes erupted on Saturday night after security forces killed four civilians when they fired on mourners at a funeral, the Observatory reported at the time.

There was no independent confirmation that Douma had been taken or of any fighting in the area, as foreign reporters are generally not allowed access.

But clashes between security forces and army deserters are multiplying across Syria, particularly in the northwestern province of Idlib, Daraa in the south, and the flashpoint central province of Homs.