12 Dec 2011

Syria holding local elections

10:30 pm on 12 December 2011

Syria is holding local elections shortly despite the continuing violence between security forces and opposition supporters.

Eighteen people were reported killed on Sunday.

The BBC says authorities say the elections will be freer than in previous years, but opposition groups have called for a boycott.

Syria has refused to allow international monitors to observe the vote.

The turnout is expected to be very low, the BBC reports. Correspondents say many Syrian voters will not risk going to the polls amid escalating violence.

The United Nations estimates more than 4000 people have died in the nine-month uprising, including 307 children.

The Syrian government says it is fighting armed groups. Many army defectors have joined the opposition in recent months.