US Checks Syrian Troop Pullout

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The U.S. ambassador to Syria says Syrian government forces appear to have pulled out of some towns and cities ahead of a U.N.-brokered cease-fire deadline.

However, Robert Ford said the government in other locations seems to have only moved troops from one place to another and in some locations have kept artillery units near residential areas.

Ford’s statement on the embassy’s Facebook page was accompanied by before and after satellite images of the reported pullouts.

The Syrian government has promised to stop all military action by April 10. Under terms of the Security Council statement passed earlier this week, the opposition is supposed to lay down its arms within 48 hours after the government fulfills its promise.

Syrian forces pounded opposition targets across the country on Friday, less than a week before the U.N. cease-fire deadline, killing at least 24 people, most of them civilians.

The attacks came as tens of thousands of Syrians reportedly took part in anti-government protests, according to opposition counts.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday sharply criticized the Syrian government for its continued assault on civilians. Mr. Ban said the cease-fire deadline “is not an excuse for continued killing.”

International peace envoy Kofi Annan says the Syrian government has made little progress toward ending its yearlong crackdown on dissent.

The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began 13 months ago.

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