BEIRUT - Syrian state television said on Monday that the death toll among security forces in the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shugour had risen to 40.

"The armed groups are using weapons and grenades ... the people in Jisr al-Shughour are urging the army to intervene speedily," it said. It said earlier that security forces had clashed with hundreds of gunmen who had set up blockades in the town.

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Demonstrations erupted Saturday in Jisr al-Shughour where protesters demanded the removal of President Bashar Assad, residents said on Sunday.

The killings began when snipers deployed on the roof of the main post office fired volleys of bullets at a funeral for six protesters who were killed on Friday, when a large protest demanding democracy came under fire, they said.

"In the last 24 hours at least 31 people have been shot dead, among them eight mourners at the funeral," said one of the residents, a history teacher who gave his name as Ahmad said Sunday.

He said angry mourners torched part of the post office after the shooting.

The official Syrian news agency said "armed terrorist groups" killed four policemen in the town, attacked public buildings and "spread terror in the heart of citizens who called on the authorities to intervene forcefully to protect them".

"The killings in Jisr al-Shughour are an act of revenge by the state for the Friday protests and another attempt to silence a Syrian town through the use of violence," Qurabi said.

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