Syrian deserters take town near Damascus: activists

2012-01-22 08:47

NICOSIA, Jan 22, 2012 (AFP) -Syrian army deserters seized control of the protest hub of Douma just northeast of Damascus after fierce fighting, before they withdrew to their bases, a rights group said on Sunday.

The clashes erupted on Saturday night after security forces killed four civilians when they fired on mourners at a funeral in Douma, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

"Dissident groups withdrew from the town and returned to their bases," it said in a statement sent to AFP in Nicosia, without providing a reason for the pullout.

Citing activists on the ground, the head of the Observatory, Rami Abdel Rahman, had told AFP late on Saturday that "groups of deserters took control of all districts in the town of Douma, near Damascus, after fierce fighting".

There was no independent confirmation that Douma had been taken or of any fighting in the area, as foreign reporters are generally not allowed access.