Syrian rights activists say government troops backed by tanks have attacked three towns in central Syria, killing five people as part of a crackdown on a two-month old opposition uprising.
The activists and witnesses say tanks opened fire on the towns of Rastan, Talbiseh and Teir Maaleh on Sunday after authorities sealed them off by closing roads and cutting phone services. They say more than 100 people were wounded in the assaults.
Activists say two people were killed in Rastan, where residents held a large protest Friday to demand an immediate end to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's 11-year authoritarian rule. They say Syrian troops killed another three people in Talbiseh and detained some of its residents.
Elsewhere, the activists say Syrian security forces opened fire on anti-government demonstrators in the northeastern town of Deir el-Zour late Saturday, wounding several people.They also accused Syrian security forces of killing 12 people in dispersing nationwide protests on Friday.
It was difficult to verify reports of casualties independently because the Syrian government has banned foreign journalists from operating in the country.
Human rights groups say government forces have killed more than 1,000 people since the uprising began in March. The Syrian government says terrorist gangs backed by Islamists and foreign agitators have killed at least 120 security personnel during that period.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.