Syrian troops withdraw from Tall Kalakh, witness says

Syrian troops on Thursday began withdrawing from Tall Kalakh, deploying on the outskirts of the western town that had been besieged following pro-democracy protests, a witness told AFP.

"Some 20,000 soldiers that had been in the town began withdrawing this morning," said the witness who did not want to be identified. "We counted 80 tanks and armored personnel carriers and buses."

He added however that soldiers were still carrying out arrests in the town and looting homes.

He said the army had encircled the nearby town of Arida where shooting could be heard.

His account could not be independently verified as Syrian authorities have prevented journalists from traveling to cities and towns across the country to report on the unprecedented protests threatening the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The army laid siege to Tall Kalakh last Saturday after it became the latest town to rise up against the regime.

Activists say at least 26 people were killed in the town and many more injured.

More than 850 people, including women and children, have been killed in the unrest roiling the country since mid-March and at least 8,000 arrested, according to rights groups and the United Nations.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

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