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Syrians want militants out of Qudsaya

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This October 1, 2016 photo released by Syria's official news agency SANA shows people protesting in the town of Qudsaya, near the capital Damascus, against the continued presence of militants there.

People in Qudsaya near the Syrian capital Damascus have demonstrated against the presence of armed groups in the town.  

Thousands of people gathered at the main square of Qudsaya, located about 10 kilometers northwest of Damascus, on Saturday, protesting against continued bloodshed in the town, which they said had resulted from the presence of militants. 

Demonstrators urged the government to ignore an initiative meant for reconciliation with the militants.

The official news agency SANA said the protesters also called for a swift evacuation of the militants from the town. The government should accelerate talks with groups that are genuine in their peace objectives, the demonstrators demanded.

SANA said gunfire erupted during the demonstration and armed men fired shots to disperse protesters. There was no immediate report of casualties.

The demonstration came a day after hundreds of people staged a similar protest following the Friday prayer in the town, calling on the government to clearly define the legal status of various armed and opposition groups operating there.

Syria announced last November that about 120 militants and their families had been evacuated from Qudsaya to an unknown place as part of the government’s reconciliation plans with certain groups.

The surge in violence in Qudsaya reportedly came after some armed groups violated a nationwide truce agreement last month. The accord, which had come through a deal between the United States and Russia, failed to reduce hostilities on the ground, especially in and around the northwestern city of Aleppo, where the government has been fighting an array of armed groups. Damascus then rejected international offers to extend the truce, saying militants had repeatedly violated the agreement as it was the case in Qudsaya.

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