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Associated Press / ibnlive.in.com / Posted on Aug 19, 2011 at 08:12pm IST.
Beirut: Syrian security forces fired at thousands of protesters who poured into the streets throughout the country on Friday, killing at least 10 people one day after the United States and its European allies demanded that President Bashar Assad step down, activists said.
Soldiers, tanks and armored personnel carriers were deployed in restive cities, despite Assad's assurances to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that military and police operations had stopped. The harsh statements by President Barack Obama and European leaders also appeared to have no immediate effect.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and The Local Coordination Committees, a group that documents anti-regime protests, said demonstrations took place in the capital Damascus, the central city of Homs, the southern province of Daraa, the coastal city of Latakia, the eastern city of Deir el-Zour and other areas.
The observatory said five people were killed in the southern village of Ghabagheb, three in the nearby village of Hirak and one each in Homs and the southern village of Inkhil. LCC said that 12 people were killed in different areas, mostly south of the country.
It was impossible to independently verify the death toll because Syria has banned foreign reporters and restricted coverage by local media.
There also was a wave of arrests on Friday.
Protests also erupted Thursday night - part of a growing trend of evening protests when security forces tend to thin out. The observatory and The LCC said shootings on Thursday killed one person in a Damascus suburb and another died of his wounds early Friday in the central city of Homs.
Syrian state TV said gunmen shot dead one policeman and wounded four in the Damascus suburb of Harasta while four policemen were wounded in Inkhil on Friday.
Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the observatory, said there was wide security deployment including armored personnel carriers.
"I've seen soldiers walking through the streets of the city," said an activist in Homs who asked that her name not be mentioned for fear of government reprisals. "But I can't hear gunfire, and I don't believe they are shooting."
Assad is coming under mounting criticism for his crackdown on a 5-month uprising. Human rights groups and witnesses accuse Syrian troops of firing on largely unarmed protesters and say more than 1,800 civilians have been killed since mid-March.
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