Syrian security forces began a wave of mass arrests at three different locations in the early hours of Sunday, witnesses said, as Syrian President Bashar Assad expanded a campaign to crush the country's seven-week, nationwide uprising.
A 12-year-old boy was killed Sunday as gunfire and shelling erupted in the central Syrian city of Homs, a flashpoint in the widespread seven-week-old uprising against Assad's autocratic regime, an activist said.
In Baniyas, where clashes over the weekend left at least six people dead, troops arrested more than 200 people - including a 10-year-old boy.
In the southern town of Tafas, residents also said Sunday that tanks had rolled in and troops were detaining people. And in Homs, tanks and troops also stormed two main neighborhoods overnight, human rights campaigners said, in the first incursion into residential areas in Syria's third city. Machinegun fire and shelling was heard across the city of one million people, they said.
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Rami Abdul-Rahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said more than 200 people were picked up overnight in Baniyas, a mostly Sunni city with a key oil industry on the Mediterranean coast. Some of the largest protests in the seven weeks of Syrian unrest have been held in the city, and on Saturday, troops in tanks and armored vehicles rolled in and sealed it off.
A 10-year-old was among those taken into custody, Abdul-Rahman said, in a move that appears to be designed to punish his parents. He added that water, electricity and nearly all forms of communication to the city have been cut.
Another activist getting witness reports said three more people have been reported dead there since Saturday, bringing the two-day death toll in Baniyas to six. The activist declined to be named for safety reasons.
At least eight tanks moved into Tafas, a town of about 30,000 people near Daraa, at around 6 A.M. on Sunday. Residents said they heard gunfire and that army and security forces broke into houses to arrest youths.
Syrian tanks stormed Baniyas on Saturday, rights campaigners said, killing at least six civilians, including four women.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the death toll. The Observatory said the six where killed during the attack on Baniyas and demanded the Syrian authorities allow an independent committee to investigate the deaths.
The army entered Baniyas, a coastal city of 50,000 people, from three directions, advancing into Sunni districts but not Alawite neighborhoods, the campaigner said.
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