Syria security forces clash with protesters

(Al Jazeera) — Protests have erupted in at least three towns across Syria in the most serious case of unrest in decades for a country that has been ruled with strict emergency laws for almost half a century.

(BBC) — At least two protesters have been shot dead in the south Syrian city of Deraa as security forces clamped down on a protest rally.

A resident told Reuters news agency the pair had been killed by security forces as protesters demanded political freedom and an end to corruption.

A human rights activist told AFP that four people had been killed.

President Bashar al-Assad, whose Baath party has dominated politics for nearly 50 years, tolerates no dissent.

The state news agency Sana said violence and “acts of sabotage” had broken out at a demonstration in Deraa on Friday, prompting security forces to intervene.

It accused “infiltrators” of seeking to “provoke chaos through acts of violence which resulted in damage to private and public property”.

‘Hundreds injured’
The resident who spoke to Reuters named the two dead people as Hussam Abdel Wali Ayyash and Akram Jawabreh.

They had been among “several thousand” demonstrators chanting “God, Syria, Freedom” and anti-corruption slogans, accusing the president’s family of corruption, the resident said.

Security forces, the Reuters source added, were reinforced with troops flown in by helicopters.

An anti-government website, Free Syria, also named Akram Jawabreh as one of “a number” of protesters killed.

The unnamed human rights activist contacted by AFP named both Mr Jawabreh and Mr Ayyash among four people killed.

“The security forces fired live bullets at the protesters,” the activist said, adding that “hundreds” of protesters had been wounded.

He told AFP that “many” of the wounded had been “snatched by security forces” from hospital and moved to unknown locations.