A Syrian official source said on Sunday 12 people were killed in clashes in the port city of Latakia over the last two days.

"An official source said attacks by armed elements on the families and districts of Latakia over the last two days resulted in the martyrdom of 10 security forces and civilians and the killing of two of the armed elements," the official Syrian news agency SANA said.

The source added that 200 people, most of whom were from the security forces, were wounded in the clashes.

Rights activists told Reuters on Saturday at least six people had been killed in Latakia over two days.

A resident of Latakia said soldiers took to the streets of the city on Saturday night to help secret police and security forces control the city after confrontations between Alawite and Sunni youth.

"Decades of pent up feelings are generating these confrontations. But this not a mass Sunni-Alawite strife. Cooler heads are prevailing in Latakia," the resident said.

He said no tanks or troop carriers were to be seen and the army was restricting its presence to soldiers on foot.

"There is a feeling in Latakia that the presence of disciplined troops is necessary to keep order. We do not want looting," he added.

An official source said security forces had not fired at protesters in Latakia but that an armed group had taken over rooftops and fired on citizens and security forces, killing five people since Friday.

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