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At Least 3 Dead as Protests Erupt in Syria

Protests have erupted in several cities in Syria, leaving at least three people dead.

Witnesses say the deaths occurred Friday in Deraa, a southwestern city near the Jordanian border.

Government media say security forces intervened to protect citizens after "instigators" tried to create "chaos" by damaging property and setting vehicles and buildings on fire.

The state-run media report also says a second "gathering" took place in the coastal town of Banyas.

Western news reports say a third rally took place north of the capital, Damascus. The reports say thousands of people took part in the demonstrations nationwide.

Protests have erupted over the past few days in Syria, where activists have called for the release of political prisoners and greater freedoms under the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Friday's incidents took place a day after Syrian human rights groups said the government had charged 32 activists with hurting the state's image.

The activists were detained on Wednesday during a demonstration outside the Interior Ministry. Protesters were calling for the release of political prisoners.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.