Syria braces for fresh Friday protests
Cairo/ Damascus - Syrians are preparing on Friday to hold anti-government protests amid continued crackdowns by security and army forces, activists said.
Dubbed the "Friday of Patience and Steadfastness", according to online activists, the protests mark the last Friday in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Pro-democracy protesters in Syria have intensified their demonstrations against the government of President Bashar al-Assad since Ramadan started on August 1.
At least six civilians were killed on Wednesday by security forces in several areas of the country, the Federation of the Local Co-ordination of the Syrian Revolution, an opposition group, said.
It added that the deaths occurred in Idlib near the border of Turkey, the central city of Hama and in al-Rastan near the region of Homs.
Footage posted by activists on the internet showed Syrians in the suburban Damascus area of Duma in an overnight protest. They shouted: "Now Gaddafi has gone, your turn has come, Bashar!"
Hunt on for cartoonist's attackers
Other protesters called for the president to be executed.
An estimated 2 200 people have been killed since March, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said this week, adding that 350 of them had died since the onset of the month of Ramadan.
Meanwhile, Syrian police are hunting for the attackers who broke the hand of the country's leading political cartoonist, the official SANA news agency said on Friday, after Washington condemned the attack.
"The competent authorities at the Interior Ministry are seeking the culprits in order to bring them to justice," the agency said.
Cartoonist Ali Ferzat, aged 60, said that four men abducted him while he returned home before dawn on Thursday, and broke two fingers of his left hand, his right arm and damaged his left eye.
Opposition activists have accused members of the security services and masked pro-regime militias of being behind the attack.
The US on Thursday condemned the attack.
Citing information from the US embassy in Damascus, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Ferzat's hands had been broken in what she called "the most disgusting and deplorable way to send a message".
Since the start of an anti-regime uprising in March, Ferzat, one of the Arab world's most renowned cartoonists, has published cartoons critical of the brutal crackdown on protesters.