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Sun, 27 Mar 2011 15:33 - Updated Sun, 27 Mar 2011 15:33

Syria unrest: Two people shot dead in Latakia protest


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Latakia - Two people have been killed in the Syrian city of Latakia during anti-government protests, officials say.

Officials said the two were killed by snipers but activists said security forces opened fire on protesters.

In the last week, dozens of people have been killed in a number of Syrian cities in protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

The authorities have blamed the violence on armed gangs trying to destabilise the country.Offices of the ruling Baath party were burned down in the coastal town of Latakia and the southern town of Tafas, witnesses said, while hundreds of people renewed demonstrations in Deraa.

The US and the UN earlier condemned the Syrian government following reports that troops fired on peaceful protesters on Friday.

However, adviser to President Assad, Bouthaina Shaaban, has told the BBC it was not security forces that had shot protesters but "armed groups" firing on civilians indiscriminately.

She blamed a Sunni Muslim cleric in Doha, Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi, for inciting the violence in Latakia, saying it had been trouble free before he spoke on Friday.

Syrian officials say 27 people, including 20 protesters, have been killed in clashes with security forces in a number of cities since anti-government demonstrations began over a week ago.

Activists say many more people have been killed, but there is no independent confirmation.The protests have presented President Assad with his biggest challenge in his 11 years of rule.