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At Least 4 Killed in Syrian Clashes


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad addresses the nation during a speech at the Parliament in Damascus, Syria, March 30, 2011

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad addresses the nation during a speech at the Parliament in Damascus, Syria, March 30, 2011

Syrian security forces have killed at least four people, as thousands of protesters gathered Friday for anti-government rallies across the country.

Witnesses say government forces used gunfire, tear gas and batons to beat back protesters, a day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced reform measures aimed at meeting opposition demands.

Western media report three protesters were killed in Douma, a suburb of the capital, Damascus.

Syria's state news agency, SANA, reported a girl was killed in the western city of Homs.

Mass protests against Baath party rule also took place in the southern city of Daraa.

The United States condemned the security crackdown and again urged Assad to take steps toward meaningful reform.

On Thursday, Assad called for reforms including the creation of a committee to study the possibility of lifting the country's emergency law, which restricts opposition gatherings. Abolishing the emergency law has been a key demand of protesters carrying out the anti-government rallies.

SANA reported that Assad also called for the creation of a committee to study civilian and military deaths in the cities of Daraa and Latakia, the centers of opposition activity in recent weeks.

Before Friday's clashes, Human Rights Watch estimated at least 61 people had died in clashes since the unrest began.

The opposition rallies have represented the most serious threat to Assad's 11-year rule and the longstanding authority of his family.

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

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