DAMASCUS (AFP) — Syrian security forces killed at least two people when they opened fire on 50,000 people at the funeral of assassinated Kurdish opposition figure Meshaal Tamo on Saturday, activists said.
The shooting, which also wounded several others, came a day after nationwide rallies against President Bashar al-Assad and in support of a newly formed opposition front, the Syrian National Council, of which Tamo was a member.
“Two people were killed during a shooting against the funeral procession of the martyr Meshaal Tamo in the city of Qamishli,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement, adding several others were hurt.
The Local Coordination Committees, a pro-democracy activist network, had previously reported that one person was killed and several others were wounded at the funeral.
The funeral for Tamo, who was gunned down in public in Qamishli in the north, turned into a mass rally with more than 50,000 demonstrators calling for fall of the Assad regime, the activists said.
Tamo’s son and a fellow activist, Zahida Rashkilo of the Kurdish Future Party, were also wounded in the attack, they said.
Tamo founded the liberal Kurdish Future Party, which considers Kurds an integral part of Syria, and had been recently released after three and a half years in prison.
His assassination also sparked indignation abroad.
In Austria, 11 opponents of the Assad regime were arrested overnight after they invaded the Syrian embassy in Vienna and demonstrated on the balcony, police said Saturday.
In Lebanon, 50 activists including Kurds gathered outside the Syrian embassy in Beirut amid tight security to demand Assad step down.
The United States on Friday said Assad’s regime is escalating its tactics against the opposition with bold attacks on its leaders, while France said it was “shocked” by the news of the murder.
“This is a clear escalation of regime tactics,” US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters, referring to reports of Tamo’s murder, as well as the beating on Friday of former MP Riad Seif.
Nuland said both opposition leaders were attacked in broad daylight.
France condemned the regime’s “brutal violence” in its crackdown on the opposition which, according to activists, left 16 people dead during countrywide anti-regime rallies after the main weekly Muslim prayers on Friday.
“We are shocked by the assassination of opposition figure Meshaal Tamo… and by the attack on opposition figure Riad Seif,” a French foreign ministry spokesman said.
Seif, a former lawmaker, had to be given hospital treatment after being beaten outside a mosque in the capital’s commercial neighborhood of Medan.
The murder of Tamo was also condemned “in the strongest terms” on Saturday by the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
The Local Coordination Committees on Saturday accused the regime of trying to “physically eliminate” opposition figures.
“The regime is countering the revolution with physical liquidation, taking advantage of the laxity of the international community which is slow to take (proper) action in the face of crimes committed against the Syrian people.”
The official SANA news agency reported “the assassination,” but gave a different account of Tamo’s death. It said he was killed “by gunmen in a black car who fired at his car.”
In the face of international condemnation, Syria’s deputy foreign minister on Friday said more than 1,100 people had been killed by “terrorists” in the revolt that has shaken the country since March.
“Syria is grappling with terrorist threats,” Faysal Mekdad said in a speech to the 47-state UN Human Rights Council.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, meanwhile, said at least 187 children were among the estimated total of more than 2,900 people killed since Syria launched its brutal crackdown on dissent.
As in previous weeks, anti-regime rallies on Friday, which were held under the banner “The Syrian National Council is our representative, mine, yours and that of all Syrians,” were met with deadly force, with 16 reported killed.
Demonstrators in the restive Damascus district of Barzeh carried slogans affirming their “complete support” for the SNC, according to videos on YouTube, while protesters in Homs chanted “the people want the fall of the president”.
In Daraa, southern Syria, thousands trampled on giant Russian and Chinese flags, in a sign of discontent at the two UN Security Council members blocking a resolution calling for “targeted measures” against Assad.
On the diplomatic front, Russia said it would host opposition figures next Tuesday after resident Dmitry Medvedev Medvedev unexpectedly piled pressure on Damascus.
“If the Syrian leadership is unable to undertake these reforms, it will have to go. But this is something that has to be decided not by NATO or individual European countries but by the people and leadership of Syria,” he said.
Meanwhile, some 90 members of Syria’s opposition, led by the SNC, met Saturday in Stockholm to thrash out their strategy for their struggle against the Assad regime.
“Members of the opposition approached us for help to set up a meeting with the opposition’s different factions,” Olof Palme International Center secretary general Jens Orback said in a statement.
“They were looking for methods on how to agree on certain issues in order to make progress in their struggle,” he explained.
The conference’s participants are expected to announce the results of their meetings at a press conference on Monday
(www.maannews.net / 08.10.2011)