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By Massoud A. Derhally, bloomberg.com / Aug 26, 2011 5:21 PM GMT+0530.
Syrian security forces killed four people after stepping up security around Damascus before Friday prayers, which have been followed by protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s government for the last five months.
The protesters were killed in the eastern town of Deir al- Zour and Douma, a suburb of the capital, said Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights. Security is “tight” around the Rukneddine, Harasta, Douma and Muadamiya neighborhoods of Damascus, he said by telephone today. The deployment follows raids and arrests of dissidents late yesterday in Homs, Deir al-Zour and Daraa, where the uprising began in mid-March, Merhi said.
The protests are part of the wave of unrest across the Middle East and North Africa this year that has unseated the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia. Assad, who succeeded his father as president after his death in 2000, has blamed the demonstrations on foreign-inspired plots.