Syria to release children who sparked anti-government protests

Syrian authorities said on Sunday they will release 15 children whose arrest helped fuel protests in the southern city of Daraa during which security forces killed four civilians.

An official statement said the children, who had written freedom slogans on the walls inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, will be released immediately.

On Friday, eyewitnesses claimed that Syrian security forces killed five demonstrators in Daraa as they took part in a peaceful protest demanding political freedom and an end to corruption in Syria.

Syrian state media says security forces dispersed protesters in two towns in the most serious unrest in years in one of the Mideast’s most repressive states.

Several thousand protesters chanted “God, Syria, Freedom” and other anti-corruption slogans, accusing the family of the president of corruption, when they were shot dead by security forces who were reinforced with troops flown in by helicopters, a resident said.

Amateur video footage posted Friday on YouTube and Twitter shows large groups of protesters in several cities throughout Syria but its authenticity could not be immediately be independently confirmed.

State television said at the time that some infiltrators in the town of Daraa caused chaos and riots and smashed cars and some property before they were chased off by riot police. It says a similar demonstration in the coastal town of Banyas was dispersed without incident.

One amateur video showed what appeared to be show Syrian government trucks spraying water on marchers. Two others purport to show several thousand men gathering in the cities of Homs and Banyas.

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