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At Least 8 Killed During Opposition Protests in Syria

At Least 8 Killed During Opposition Protests in Syria

At Least 8 Killed During Opposition Protests in Syria

Security forces have killed at least eight people in Syria, where thousands of protesters rallied for President Bashar al-Assad's departure.

Activists said Friday that most of the deaths occurred near Damascus and in the central city of Homs.

They say the victims include Mashaal Tammo, the spokesman for the Kurdish Future Party and a member of a newly formed Syrian opposition coalition. Activists say masked gunmen burst into his home in the northern town of Qamishli, killed him, and wounded his son.

Activists say another prominent opposition figure, former lawmaker Riad Seif, was beaten outside of a mosque in Damascus, on Friday.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland reacted to the the incidents, calling them a "clear escalation of regime tactics."

Meanwhile, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Assad needs to enact reforms or resign. But he added that Russia opposes foreign attempts to push Assad from power.

Russia had joined China on Tuesday in vetoing a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that condemned Syria for its crackdown on civilian protesters. The French news agency says anti-government protesters in the town of Dara'a trampled the Russian and Chinese flags on Friday.

In another development Friday, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad blamed much of his country's deadly unrest on "terrorists." He told the U.N. Human Rights Council that criminals have killed more than 1,100 people in Syria.

The world body, which is meeting in Geneva, is reviewing Syria's response to the pro-reform rallies.

The meeting is taking place a day after the U.N. raised its death toll from Syria's seven-month crackdown on dissent more than 2,900.

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