Syria frees more than 500 people arrested during uprising

DAMASCUS (BNO NEWS) -- The Syrian government on Saturday announced it has released more than 500 detainees on the occasion of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported.

The 553 detainees were all said to have been arrested during the ongoing, seven-month-long uprising against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. SANA said the detainees had "no blood on their hands."

The Syrian government also claimed it previously released another 119 detainees, but gave no other details about them or when exactly they were released. It was not possible to independently verify the reports due to reporting restrictions.

The release of the detainees comes after at least 17 Syrian civilians were killed on Friday when forces loyal to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad allegedly carried out a series of attacks, activists said. The attacks happened two days after the government accepted an Arab League plan to end the country's social unrest.

The government agreed to pull its army off the streets, release people jailed since the protests began in March and allow international journalists and Arab League observers to monitor the moves. However, Syria has made previous pledges to withdraw armed forces from civilian areas but it was often for only a brief period.

Also on Friday, the Interior Ministry called upon citizens who were involved in carrying, selling, distributing, transferring or financing the purchase of weapons but had not killed anyone to turn themselves in. Officials said those who turn themselves in will be released under a general amnesty.

Pro-democracy demonstrations have spread across the country since mid-March, resulting in a fierce government crackdown which has left more than 3,000 people killed. The Syrian government has claimed violent acts against protesters have been carried out by 'terrorists dressed as soldiers,' although international observers have rejected these claims.

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