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Syria Opposition Groups Rally Despite Concessions

Demonstrators of Kurd origin march after Friday prayers in Qamishli, Syria, April 15, 2011

Thousands of anti-government protesters rallied across Syria on Friday, a day after President Bashar al-Assad announced a new Cabinet and freed detainees in hopes of quelling the unrest.

The biggest protest was in Daraa, where activists chanted "freedom" after taking to the streets following Friday prayers. The southern city has become the epicenter of opposition demonstrations which began last month.

On Thursday, President Assad announced a new 30-member Cabinet and ordered the release of detainees arrested in the last month as he faces growing resistance to his rule.

Human Rights Watch says Syrian security forces have tortured and mistreated protesters who have been arrested since anti-government demonstrations began last month.

In a report Friday, the U.S.-based group said former detainees reported being beaten, electrocuted and whipped by security and intelligence service officers. It called on Syrian authorities to stop the abuse and to free people who have been detained arbitrarily, including lawyers and journalists.

A Syrian rights group has said more than 200 people have been killed as authorities cracked down on street demonstrations. Syrian officials have blamed the unrest on lawless gangs.

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

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