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Fuel price hike sparks deadly Syria Kurd protests

Tuesday, 18 May, 2021 , 15:00

Qamishli, Syria, May 18, 2021 (AFP) — A decision to hike fuel prices sparked protests across Kurdish-held parts of northeastern Syria on Tuesday that turned violent and left at least one demonstrator dead, a monitor said.

The Kurdish administration which oversees large swathes of Syria's northeast said on Monday that it was doubling and in some cases tripling the cost of fuel.

On Tuesday, dozens of people took to the streets in the city of Qamishli and other areas calling on the authorities to reverse the price hike, AFP correspondents reported.

Clashes broke out when protesters and gunmen stormed a base in the town of Shadadi belonging to Kurdish security forces, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

One protester was killed and five others were wounded in the exchange of fire, said the Britain-based monitor.

The price hike saw the cost of diesel climb to 400 Syrian pounds (30 US cents at the official exchange rate) per litre from 150 and petrol to 410 pounds per litre from 210.

Cannisters of gas used in homes are now selling for 8,000 pounds, up from 2,500.

The price hikes come on top of an accelerating economic crisis that has weakened the value of the pound and plunged wide segments of Syria's population into poverty.

"The Kurdish administration was forced to raise prices because the previous ones didn't cover the cost of production," said Sadiq al-Khalaf, a Kurdish administration official.

Kurds control some of Syria's largest gas and oil fields but authorities are not producing enough oil and gas to meet the demand.

Heating fuel, petrol and cooking gas have been in short supply in recent months and motorists have grown used to waiting in long queues to fill up.

Regional authorities have not explained the reason behind the shortage.

Amid protests, regime loyalists in the city of Hassakeh -- parts of which are controlled by government forces -- attacked a Kurdish security forces position, according to the Observatory.

Three people were injured, it said.

The Kurdish Asayish security forces released a statement condemning attempts to exploit peaceful demonstrations by "attacking military and civilian" infrastructure.

"It is creating a state of chaos," the Asayish said.

Syria used to produce almost 400,000 barrels of oil per day before its civil war erupted.

But 10 years of conflict have ravaged production, with oil sector's losses estimated at $91.5 billion.