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Security flexes muscle in flashpoint Syrian city

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Syrian Unrest
  • NEW: Security personnel take control of key mosque
  • A curfew has been imposed in the city
  • Soldiers are stationed on rooftops amid shelling
  • On Friday, deaths and injuries occurred in Daraa

(CNN) -- The brutal crackdown in the restive Syrian city of Daraa persisted on Saturday, as security personnel surrounded, shelled and took control of a key mosque, residents told CNN.

Soldiers and other security forces blanketed the area around the Omari mosque, the center of anti-government demonstrations in the city, according to two residents and two human rights activists outside Syria who are in touch with protesters there.

In the eastern part of the city, dozens of government tanks fired shells as helicopters flew overhead and soldiers got into position on rooftops, residents said.

Gunfire could be heard in the background as one of the residents spoke to CNN over the telephone.

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Meanwhile, on Saturday, the Syrian government announced it has a complete plan for reforms in the political, economic, judicial and administrative sectors, Syrian state news agency SANA said.

In Daraa, residents said the city is under a strict curfew. One resident said that men venturing outside were being shot and women and children who left their homes were being escorted back. Another said anyone on the street was being shot.

Bloated bodies remained uncollected in the streets, their relatives afraid to retrieve them, witnesses said, and they complained about a lack of water, power, electricity and food.

CNN has not been granted access into Syria and is unable to independently verify witness accounts.

But CNN has spoken with witnesses, some of whom have also reported what they see via social networking sites and posted homemade videos. Reports also have been compiled by human rights organizations.

The clampdown in Daraa comes a day after 19 people, including four soldiers, were reported killed and more than 50 others wounded in the city, where the nationwide demonstrations originated last month.

Funerals were held Saturday in Homs for four members of the Syrian security forces killed during protests in that city and in Daraa, SANA said.

In Daraa, government forces opened fire on protesters from neighboring villages who tried to enter the city near the Jordanian-Syrian border, according to witnesses who spoke with CNN.

The violence comes amid a bloody crackdown against protesters by the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus.

The harsh crackdown has emboldened demonstrators and drawn widespread criticism from across the world, including international entities like the United Nations and human rights groups.

The U.S. government on Friday announced new sanctions against top members and elements of the regime.

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