Syrian forces fight 'terrorists' near Damascus, killing many gunmen: ministry

January 31, 2012 11:17 am 

DAMASCUS, Jan. 31 — Syria's specialized authorities have conducted "qualitative" operations in eastern suburbs of the capital Damascus, killing many "terrorists" and confiscating large quantities of weapons and ammunition, Syria's Ministry of Interior said Monday. "Over the past three days the specialized authorities carried out qualitative operations in eastern suburbs of Damascus, including Douma, Harasta, Saqba, and Hamoriah," said the ministry in a statement carried out by the state media.

"The operations aimed to put an end to the armed groups, which have committed the most terrible crimes of murder and kidnapping against citizens," the statement said, adding: "After clashing with those groups, which were equipped with Israeli and American- made weapons, the authorities discovered secret hideouts which have been used by those groups to hid kidnapped people and prepare handmade explosives."

The ministry said that hunting remnants of the armed men is currently underway, pointing out that many residents of the restive suburbs have implored the government to put an end to the practices of those groups.

The government forces stepped up the crackdown over the past days on violence in restive areas in central Syria and Damascus suburbs, as the leadership pledged to beat "terrorists" with an iron grip.

In his recent televised appearance, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said that "we will defeat the plot," adding that "they (conspirators) are in their final stage."

"Restoring security is the ultimate priority for Syria at this stage," he said. "Terrorists would be beaten with an iron fist."

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem has recently stressed that a security solution in Syria has become a "popular demand by the Syrian people but won't be the sole solution."

He added that some of the opposition figures have instruction from outside not to take part in the dialogue called for by the government.

Some Syrian provinces, including Homs, Hama and Idlib, and the suburbs of Damascus have witnessed severe clashes between the government troops and militia groups allegedly consisting of army defectors. The daily violence has sparked fears that the country might be sliding toward a civil war.

The head of the so-called Syrian Free Army, a group of alleged defectors who were given refuge in Turkey, has recently pledged to carry out wide-scale attacks against army bases across Syria.

The Syrian government said more than 2,000 army and security personnel were killed during the months-long unrest, while the United Nations put the death toll in the country at more than 5,400. (PNA/Xinhua)

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