BEIRUT – Syrian troops killed four people Saturday while storming a mosque that became a focal point for protesters in the besieged southern city of Daraa, and security forces in Damascus kept dozens of women from marching on parliament to urge President Bashar Assad to end his crackdown on a six-week-old uprising.
More members of Assad’s ruling Baath Party resigned in protest as human rights activists said the death toll soared to 535 from government forces firing on demonstrators to try to suppress the popular revolt – action that has drawn international condemnation and U.S. financial penalties on top figures in his regime.
The military raid on the Omari mosque in Daraa came a day after 65 people were killed – most of them in the town on Syria’s border with Jordan. Friday was the second deadliest day since the uprising began in mid-March in Daraa.
In a new show of defiance, about 50 women carrying banners reading “No to the siege” and “No to killing” demonstrated Saturday in the capital of Damascus and tried to reach the parliament building, activists said. Plainclothes security forces stopped them long before they reached the legislature’s offices and detained 11 women.
Banned group enters politics
CAIRO, Egypt – The Muslim Brotherhood, the popular Islamic movement long banned from politics by former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, announced Saturday that it has formed a political party.
“This party will be independent from the Brotherhood but will coordinate with it,” Mahmoud Hussein, the Brotherhood’s secretary- general, said at a news conference announcing the formation of the Freedom and Justice party.
Mohamed Morsy, a member of the Brotherhood’s politburo who will lead the new party, quickly moved to allay fears that it would be dominated by religious ideology and Islamic conservatism: “The party will not be Islamist in the old understanding,” he said.
The Brotherhood said the new party would put forward candidates in parliamentary elections scheduled for September.