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Syria denies execution of 21 army officers


13:31, December 21, 2011

DAMASCUS, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- A Syrian military source on Tuesday categorically denied media reports that Syrian authorities would execute 21 army officers recently arrested.

The source, whose remarks were carried by the state-run SANA news agency, said that "fabricating such news is an evidence of the bankruptcy of these media channels that have waged a disinformation campaign since the eruption of the crisis in Syria. "

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the London-based opposition, said Monday that about 70 Syrian army deserters had been killed as they abandoned their positions in the towns of Kansafra and Kafr Awid, in the restive northern province of Idlib, while a number of civilians were also killed on Monday. Their report couldn't be independently verified.

Tensions in Syria began in March when protesters took to the streets to call for the ouster of President Bashar Assad. The situation has since escalated, and Syrian security forces have been accused of firing on protesters, reports said.

The Syrian government has repeatedly denied that its forces deliberately kill anti-government protesters, saying armed groups of the opposition are responsible for the bloodshed.

President Assad has recently blamed the violence in Syria on criminals, religious extremists and terrorists sympathetic to al- Qaida. He claimed that they are mixed with peaceful demonstrators.

Meanwhile, Lebanon's Minister of Defense Fayes Ghuson said Tuesday there is smuggling of weapons and al-Qaida fighters from Lebanon into Syria, SANA reported.

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