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Syrian forces open fire on protesters, killing 14

Today’s rallies appear to be the largest and most widespread since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March.

Syrians carry a national flag during a candle vigil in honor of those who were killed in recent violence, in Damascus at the end of June.
Syrians carry a national flag during a candle vigil in honor of those who were killed in recent violence, in Damascus at the end of June.
Image: [File photo] Muzaffar Salman/AP/Press Association Images

A SYRIAN ACTIVIST says security forces have killed 14 protesters during anti-government demonstrations across the country.

Today’s  rallies appeared to be the largest and most widespread since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March.

Omar Idilbi is a spokesman for the Local Coordination Committees, which track the protests in Syria and have a network of sources on the ground.

He said seven people were killed in the capital, three in the northwestern city of Idlib, three in the central city of Homs and one in the southern city of Daraa.

“All hell broke loose, the firing was intense,” an activist in Daraa told The Associated Press, asking that his name not be published for fear of government reprisals.

The protests stretched from the capital, Damascus, and its suburbs to Hasakeh province in the north and Daraa in the south, to Latakia on the coast. Thousands converged on the flashpoint cities of Homs and Hama in central Syria, among other areas across the nation of 22 million.

President Bashar Assad is trying to crush the rebellion with a deadly government crackdown that activists say has killed some 1,600 people. The government disputes the toll and blames the bloodshed on a foreign conspiracy and gangs.

One of the largest protests took place in Hama, Syria’s fourth-largest city and an opposition stronghold. An activist in the city said many people from nearby villages joined the protests.

He added that Hama, which has been out of government control since early June, is suffering from lack of medicine and food due to a siege by troops. He said diseases are spreading because garbage has not been collected over the past two weeks.

The Syrian opposition dedicated Friday’s protests to the tens of thousands of people detained since the uprising began in mid-March. Activist say about 15,000 are still being held.

Syria has banned most foreign media and placed tight restrictions on reporters, making it nearly impossible to independently confirm accounts out of Syria.

-AP

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