Syrian forces kill 4 as protests erupt across country

Several injured as forces open fire on anti-Assad demonstrators in Deraa; saboteurs target oil pipeline in Homs, state news agency reports; clashes between regime forces, residents in Deir al-Zor.

Anti-Assad protest in Syrian city of Hama 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Anti-Assad protest in Syrian city of Hama 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
At least four people were killed on Friday as Syrian security forces fired at demonstrators throughout the country. Two people were shot dead in the southern city of Deraa, one was killed in Latakia and another in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor.
Thousands took to streets across the country after Friday prayers to demand the downfall of President Bashar Assad, witnesses and activists said. Several other people were injured during the clashes.
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"They are firing at demonstrators in alleyways and people are running for cover. Protesters have been trying to avoid heavy security in main streets," a resident of Deraa, a technician who gave his name as Ayman, told Reuters by phone. Security forces also used tear gas to try to disperse demonstrators in Deraa, witnesses said.
Meanwhile, clashes broke out overnight between military intelligence agents and residents in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor after the killing of five protesters, witnesses said on Friday.
Syrian security forces shot dead five civilians in Deir al-Zor on Thursday, residents said, in a new effort to try to crush widening Sunni Muslim unrest against Assad.
"Mosques are calling for blood (donations) for 14 people badly wounded," one resident, a computer programmer who declined to be named, told Reuters by phone.
"Three tanks and four armored personnel carriers have been deployed in and around the main square. Thousands of people still went out in a night demonstration," he added.
Also on Friday, saboteurs "targeted" an oil pipeline near the central city of Homs on, the official Syrian news agency said, without giving details of the nature of the attack.
Homs is home to one of Syria's two oil refineries and has seen large protests demanding the toppling of president Bashar Assad whose forces have deployed tanks in the city.
On Sunday Assad, from Syria's minority Alawite sect, replaced the civilian governor of Deir al-Zor province with a secret police officer, two days after the biggest pro-democracy demonstrations in the province so far in the uprising.
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