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A photo taken from a helicopter shows supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's gathering during a rally at al-Sabaa Bahrat square in Damascus October 12, 2011.
Credit: Reuters/Wael Hmidan
Thu Oct 13, 2011 10:07am EDT
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Fourteen people were killed in gunfire in two Syrian towns Thursday, an activist group said, most of them in clashes between troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and gunmen believed to be army defectors.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said six soldiers and two army deserters were killed in fighting in the southern town of Haara, as well as one civilian.
In the northern province of Idlib, where Assad's forces have carried out raids to arrest activists, army deserters and gunmen, five civilians were killed after troops backed by armored vehicles rolled into the town of Binish firing machine guns, the group said.
The United Nations says 2,900 people have been killed in Assad's crackdown on protests which broke out in southern province of Deraa more than six months ago and spread across the country.
Most of the violence in recent days has occurred in Idlib, Deraa and the city of Homs, where activists have reported clashes and gunfire since Sunday.
Street protests against Assad's 11-year autocratic rule, inspired by uprisings which have swept three North African leaders from power, have been mainly peaceful but there have been increasing reports of attacks on security forces by army defectors and gunmen.
Syrian authorities blame the unrest on foreign-backed armed groups who they say have killed 1,100 members of the army and security forces.
(Reporting by Dominic Evans Editing by Maria Golovnina)
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