The Syrian security forces yesterday arrested Mohammed Ali Biasi, the financial aid of foreign opposition leader Abdul Halim Khaddam (photo). When questioned, Biasi said he had received $ 3 million to carry out operations against citizens and vital institutions in Syria and to kill scientists, academics and officers from different communities, especially clergymen, in order to destabilize security and spread chaos in Syria.

Videos aired on Syrian state television depict the “confessions” of a number of men believed to be part of a group believed to have opened fire on protesters in Damascus and its suburbs during several demonstrations last month. Syria has consistently attributed killing of anti-government protesters, soldiers and police officers on “armed gangs” and “saboteurs”. The government-run station quoted one man saying his group has been backed by an extremist cell based abroad.

Meanwhile, Al-Watan has reported that 10 “human rights organisations” have said in a press release that there is now an “armed rebellion” in Banias. Al-Watan also reported that there is ongoing dialogue between officials and protesters in the southern city of Dera’a. Yesterday, Vice President Farouq al-Sharaa met with community leaders in the southern city, which has been the site of protests calling for reforms in recent weeks. The ongoing talks are aimed at stopping violence in the city.

Prominent figures in Dera’a are expected to meet with the new Prime Minister Adel Safar in the next few days. Safar is likely to announce the new cabinet tomorrow. Former Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mikdad is expected to become information minister, Nawaf al-Fares, Syrian ambassador to Iraq will most likely become interior minister and Bassam Khoujan will become finance minister, according to Sham FM radio station.

Khalil Matouk, head of the Centre for Freedom of Expression said the head of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, one of Syria’s opposition political parties, Ghaith Oyoun Assoud, was arrested yesterday along with journalist Fayez Sarah, according to the Saudi-owned newspaper Al-Hayet. Fayez Sarah was imprisoned in 2007 and released in 2010.

Despite the cancellation of domestic football competition in Syria, yesterday, the Syrian Army team Al-Jaish played against Dahouk from Iraq. Both team’s managers refused calls to move the match outside of Damascus.

Easter celebrations will be low-key this year, as Christian leaders called for prayer and ceremonies inside churches to be the only form of observance “in honour of martyrs and innocent victims [who] died during the recent events”, according to SANA.

Syria Today (Syria)