Times 2

Syrian forces kill 15 protesters, activists say

AMMAN, June 25 (Reuters) - Syrian security forces shot dead at least 15 people after tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets on Friday demanding the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad, witnesses and activists said.

“Tell the world Bashar is without legitimacy,” shouted several thousand protesters in the Damascus suburb of Irbin, the chants audible in a phone call to a witness at the protest.

The Local Coordination Committees, a main activists' group, said it had the names of 14 civilians killed in the merchant city of Homs, the impoverished town of Kiswa south of Damascus and in the residential district of Barzeh in the capital.

Another protester was shot dead in the town of Qusair, a rights group said. Syrian state television blamed the killings in Barzeh on armed men who authorities say are behind the violence in the three-month uprising, and said members of security forces were wounded. Syria has expelled most foreign journalists making it hard to verify witness accounts or official statements.

The state news agency Sana said tens of thousands rallied in Damascus governorate in support of the “comprehensive reform process” led by Assad. It also reported a pro-Assad event in the eastern governorate of Deir al-Zor. The agency carried pictures of crowds carrying Syrian flags and pictures of Assad.

In Barzeh, a resident who gave his name only as Hussam, told Reuters by telephone: “The security police first used teargas then they started shooting from rooftops when shouting against Assad continued. Three youths were killed and I saw two bodies shot in the head and the chest.”

In the central cities of Homs and Hama, protesters shouted “the people want the downfall of the regime,” while in Deraa, cradle of the uprising, people waved banners rejecting Assad's promise in a speech this week to launch a national dialogue.

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