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Friday, 17 June 2011

Syria forces shoot dead 16 in protests,

AMMAN: Syrian forces shot dead 16 people on Friday when they fired on protesters demanding the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, activists said, and European powers said Damascus should face tougher sanctions for the violence.

Tens of thousands of people rallied across the country, defying Assad's military crackdown and ignoring a pledge that his tycoon cousin Rami Makhlouf, a symbol of corruption, would renounce his business empire and channel his wealth to charity.

The worst bloodshed was in Homs, where activists said eight protesters were killed and state television said a policeman was killed by gunmen. One person was also reported killed in the northern commercial hub of Aleppo, the first protester to die there since unrest erupted in the south of the country in March.

Friday Muslim prayers have provided a platform for the biggest protests in the three-month uprising, inspired by revolts which have overthrown the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia and challenged autocrats across the Arab world.

Activists said tens of thousands of people protested in the southern province of Deraa where the revolt against Assad's rule began, as well as in the Kurdish east, the city of Hama north of Damascus, and suburbs of the capital itself.

Two northern towns were also encircled by army units, residents said, five days after the military retook the rebellious town of Jisr al-Shughour and sent thousands of refugees streaming across the nearby border into Turkey.

Syrian rights groups say 1,300 civilians and more than 300 soldiers and police have been killed since the protests broke out in March against 41 years of rule by the Assad family, and 10,000 people have been detained.

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