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Protests Continue in Syria Despite Move to Lift Emergency Law

In this citizen journalism image acquired by The AP, Syrians pray in Clock Square in the center of the city of Homs, Syria, April 18 2011

Fresh protests have erupted in Syria, a day after the government met opposition demands and passed a bill to lift nearly 50 years of emergency rule.

Rights activists say a group of mostly student anti-government demonstrators clashed Wednesday with supporters of President Bashar al-Assad near a university in the northern city of Aleppo.

Also, Reuters news agency quotes activists who say several thousand students rallied in the southern town of Daraa.

Ending emergency rule has been a main demand of Syria's protesters. Assad must still sign the measure rescinding the law, which banned demonstrations, restricted the media and allowed eavesdropping.

While moving to end emergency law, however, Syria's government on Tuesday also threatened harsh reprisals if unrest in the country does not end.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered Tuesday in cities and towns across Syria. At least two people were killed during clashes in the central city Homs, where protesters held a sit-in at a main square.

Syrian authorities also arrested a popular opposition figure. Rights activists say Mahmoud Issa was taken from his home in Homs by Syria's political security services.

In another development, Reuters on Wednesday quoted the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as saying a security police chief in the coastal city of Banias has been dismissed following a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protesters last week.

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