Gunfire as angry protesters attack Syrian governor’s office

Witnesses say that once inside the building, protesters tore down pictures of President Bashar al-Assad.

Dozens of protesters, angered by deteriorating economic conditions in Syria, stormed the governor’s office in the southern city of Sweida and set fire to parts of the building amid heavy gunfire.

Earlier on Sunday, more than 200 people gathered around the Druze-majority building in the center of the city, chanting slogans calling for the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad as prices rise and economic hardship worsens .

Syrian state media said “bandits” burst into the governor’s office and burned files and official documents.

Three witnesses told Reuters news agency the governor was not in the building, which was vacated before protesters stormed in.

“The governor’s office has completely burned down from the inside,” said Rayan Maarouf, a civic activist and editor of Suwayda 24, a local website covering the southern region.

He said several people were injured by gunfire.

“There was heavy gunfire,” said Maarouf, adding that it was not clear where the bullets came from in the heavily guarded area.

Witnesses said that once inside the building, protesters took down pictures of al-Assad.

Deep economic crisis

Sweida province has been spared the violence in other parts of Syria since the start of the 11-year conflict that began after pro-democracy protests against al-Assad’s family rule were violently crushed by security forces.

The Druze minority sect, whose faith has its roots in Islam, has long opposed participation in the Syrian war pitting rebels against al-Assad’s forces.

Many community leaders and top Druze religious leaders have refused to enlist in the military.

Syria is in the throes of a deep economic crisis in which a majority of people struggle to afford food and basic goods.

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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