Syrian Troops Regain Control of Rebellious Damascus Suburb

Government forces recapture Douma after 10-day assault that left dozens dead, hundreds wounded; residents say situation 'catastrophic.'

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BEIRUT - Syrian troops have regained control of a rebellious Damascus suburb after a 10-day assault that left dozens dead, hundreds wounded and caused a major humanitarian crisis, activists said Saturday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and local activist Mohammed Saeed said regime forces recaptured Douma, outside the capital, late Friday. The latest offensive was the worst of several assaults on the area, with dead bodies left in the streets, the Observatory said.

"The situation in Douma is catastrophic," said Saeed, adding that he was among dozens of residents who fled on foot through the fields to safer areas for fear of being killed by security forces.

A report published by state-run SANA news agency said some of the "terrorists" tried to flee but were pursued by troops who killed and wounded a large number of them. SANA said forces would continue their search to "cleanse" Douma, a hotbed of dissent since the uprising began last March.

Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad are strong in central Damascus, but have battled to control the ring of suburbs and settlements in the surrounding countryside.

The latest violence came as representatives of global and regional powers tried to agree on a peaceful formula to end the bloody crisis in Syria, including the role of Assad in a transitional government.

The talks hosted by the United Nations are seen as a last-ditch attempt to salvage the peace plan brokered by the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

Annan warned that if nations trying to end the country's violence fail to act they face an international crisis of "grave severity." He said history "will judge us all harshly if we prove incapable of taking the right path today."

Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar Assad after Friday prayers in Sermeen, near Idlib, June 29, 2012.Credit: Reuters

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