Assad loyalists kill two while celebrating

BEIRUT - Supporters of President Bashar Assad shot dead two people in Syria on Monday, activistssaid, hours after he dismissed Western calls to step down andwarned that any military action against his country wouldbackfire.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said loyalist gunmenknown as 'shabbiha' who were celebrating after Assad's commentson Syrian television opened fire in Masyaf, west of the city ofthe central city of Hama, killing two people and wounding four.They also attacked shops belonging to Assad opponents, it said.

Assad faces growing Western calls to step down over hiscrackdown on more than five months of pro-democracy protests inwhich the United Nations says around 2,000 civilians have died.

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