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Syria Detains Activists in Dawn Sweeps After Massive Protests

Anti-Syrian government protesters flash V sign as they protest in the southern city of Daraa, March 23, 2011

Syrian activists say security forces have detained several people during dawn sweeps Saturday, a day after thousands protested at anti-government rallies across the country.

Activists say the security forces made the arrests in the southern town of Daraa, a center of opposition demonstrations in recent weeks. Activists told the Associated Press that security forces also made arrests in and around the capital, Damascus, early Saturday.

The security crackdown on Friday's demonstrations killed at least seven people. Witnesses say government forces used gunfire, tear gas and batons to beat back protesters.

Before Friday's clashes, Human Rights Watch estimated at least 61 people had died in clashes since the unrest began. The recent deaths would raise this toll to at least 68.

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

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

Assad has created 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 the anti-government protesters.

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

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