22 killed as Syria presses crackdown on protest

Syrian forces killed at least 22 protesters as tens of thousands swarmed the streets after Friday prayers, activists said, a day after President Bashar al-Assad pledged that assaults on civilians had ended.

Meanwhile, Russia and Turkey dismissed growing calls led by US President Barack Obama for Assad to quit, offering the embattled Syrian leader rare support despite a damning UN report on his “apparent shoot to kill” policy.

But the European Union was preparing sanctions against Syria’s key oil sector, a European diplomatic source told AFP.

On the political front, a group of “revolutionary blocs” formed a coalition vowing to bring down the regime and paid tribute to more than 2,000 civilians killed in a crackdown on protesters since mid-March.

Activists said 22 protesters were killed and many others wounded in demonstrations after Friday prayers.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 15 people were killed, including an 11-year-old and a 72-year-old, in the southern province of Daraa, epicentre of the anti-regime protests that erupted March 15.

Five were killed in the central city of Homs, one in the Harasta suburb of Damascus and another in the capital’s suburb of Douma.