Syrian Troops Kill 20 Gunmen ahead of Constitutional Referendum
    2012-02-26 05:36:49     Xinhua       Web Editor: Yihang

The Syrian army on Saturday continued its crackdown on armed insurgents and killed at least 20 of them, only one day ahead of a planned referendum on a draft constitution.

Private Sham FM radio reported that the Syrian troops clashed with an armed group in Saraqeb in Idlib's countryside, killing 20 gunmen, arresting seven others and seizing their weapons.

Meanwhile, Syria's Red Crescent was able to enter restive Baba Amr neighborhood in central Homs, Syria's official news agency SANA said, quoting a resident as saying armed groups had been shelling their houses and preventing them from going out.

The Homs and Idlib provinces emerged as the main hotbeds of armed insurgency against the rule of Syrian President Bashar al- Assad after the mass protests erupted last March.

Saturday's incidents came only one day before the constitutional referendum commences amid reports of opposition boycott.

Syrian Interior Minister Lt. Gen Mohammad al-Shaar said recently that necessary measures had been taken to make sure the referendum would be a success, and that the draft constitution is a "qualitative leap" in Syria's history.

According to the interior ministry, there will be 14.6 million eligible voters and 13,835 ballot centers across the country.

Mazhar al-Anbary, chairman of the drafting committee, said his group was keen to include objective conditions regarding the qualification of presidential candidates in the constitution.

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