At least 34 killed in Syria: reports

2012-01-28 21:00

Nicosia - At least 34 people died in violence across Syria on Saturday, as activists reported fierce clashes between soldiers and deserters and authorities warned the country would be "cleansed" of outlaws.

Twenty-three of those reported killed were military or security personnel.

Soldiers clashed with deserters in the restive central town of Rastan in Homs province, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reported similar confrontations in Al-Ghuta, near the capital.

"A large number of soldiers at the countless checkpoints inside the city deserted and turned their arms on the regime's soldiers," said an activist on the ground in Rastan.

"Residents are trying to help deserters fight their way out of Rastan and reach the positions of the [rebel] Free Syrian Army," added the activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, an ambush on a bus near the rebel stronghold of Douma, just north of Damascus, killed seven Syrian soldiers the official SANA news agency reported, blaming the attack on a "terrorist group."

Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar said the authorities were determined to "cleanse" the country of outlaws and to restore order.

"Groups are committing terrorist acts and killing innocent people, robbing them of their property and undermining their security," he said, quoted by SANA.