Syrian forces kill at least 2; protesters vow to continue

Syrian security forces killed at least two people as tens of thousands of anti-government protesters flooded the streets on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, a time that many activists hoped would become a turning point in the uprising.

But more than five months into the revolt against President Bashar Assad, the conflict has become a bloody stalemate with both sides showing no sign of giving in. Activists chose “patience and determination” as the theme of Friday’s protests across the country of 22 million.

“We are here to tell the regime that nothing is finished, nothing will finish and we will not stay at home like you want us to,” a protester said by telephone from the central city of Homs, where he said thousands poured into the streets.

He asked that his name not be published for fear of government reprisals.

The regime got a boost Friday from its ally in neighboring Lebanon, the Shiite militant group Hezbollah. The group’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, echoed the regime’s claims that the unrest in Syria was being driven by a foreign conspiracy seeking to destabilize the regime because of its support for anti-Israel resistance groups.


Bomb experts find ‘hoax package’ on railway line

British army bomb disposal experts were called into the historic cathedral city of Canterbury on Friday night to help investigate two incidents, including a fake bomb found on a railway line during rush hour, officials said.

The discovery of the suspicious device was followed by a fire inside a baby changing area at a Marks and Spencer department store, authorities said.

Assistant Chief Police Constable Andy Adams said Friday night that the “suspicious package on the railway line has been checked by Army bomb disposal experts and is not — as has been reported — an explosive device. We are satisfied it is in fact a hoax package designed to appear like a device.”

Transport police said all trains in the area were stopped until the emergency passed.


Activists: Dissidents targeted by proposed changes in law

Activists said Friday that proposed changes to Chinese criminal law would effectively legitimize the disappearances used against high-profile dissidents.

The official Legal Daily newspaper reported that amendments proposed to China’s criminal procedure law would allow police to detain suspects outside of detention centers when they are part of major state security and corruption cases.

Joshua Rosenzweig, an independent human rights researcher in Hong Kong, said the move would make legal such disappearances as that of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Liu was taken to a secret location for six months before being formally arrested in June 2009.

In a more recent case, the prominent artist Ai Weiwei was held somewhere outside Beijing for three months. Dozens of Chinese lawyers, activists and others vanished or were detained by authorities in a clampdown that began in February.