Syrian troops fire at protesters after prayers

BEIRUT — Syrian security forces opened fire on anti-government protests after Friday prayers at several locations around the country while the army sent reinforcements into the tense south where military defectors have recently launched deadly attacks on regime troops.

The Local Coordination Committees and the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said one person was killed in the shooting in the restive central city of Homs, and a man who was wounded in the southern province of Deraa earlier in the day died his wounds.

The Observatory said more than 200,000 people marched in different neighborhoods of Homs, denouncing President Bashar al-Assad's regime. The turnout could not be confirmed as Syrian authorities have banned most journalists from covering events on the ground.

The Observatory also reported shooting near a mosque in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour but it was unclear if there were casualties there.

The LCC said anti-government rallies took place after Friday prayers all across Syria — from Deraa to the suburbs of the capital Damascus, in Homs and Hama in the country's center, and to the north, in the city of Aleppo.

The protests came a day after Syrian army defectors killed 27 government forces in Deraa in apparently coordinated attacks that were among the deadliest by rebel troops so far.

Syria has seen a sharp escalation in armed clashes recently, raising concerns the country of 22 million is headed toward civil war. The UN raised its death toll for the Syrian uprising substantially this week, saying more than 5000 people have been killed since the revolt began.

The LCC said troops deployed in different areas in Deraa on Friday, and that electricity was cut in several locations. Deraa, where the uprising began, has been among the most tense regions in Syria.

Because of the turmoil, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said Thursday Canadians living in Syria should leave as soon as possible while commercial flights are still available. Washington issued a similar warning for US citizens in September.

At the United Nations in New York, Russia began circulating a draft Security Council resolution Thursday it said was designed to resolve the conflict in Syria. The draft calls for an end to all violence.

Russia has criticized opponents of Assad's rule for employing violent tactics. Western nations said the Russian draft did not go far enough, because it contained no sanctions against the regime.

Assad, who inherited power from his father in 2000, has denied issuing orders to kill protesters. But New York-based Human Rights Watch said Thursday that dozens of military commanders and officials authorized or gave direct orders for widespread killings and torture.

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