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Syrian forces battle defectors, group says

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 3:00 PM EDT, Mon October 17, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Monday's death toll is at least 37, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says
  • Twenty Syrian troops defected during the fighting, group says

(CNN) -- At least 37 people died Monday in fighting in Syria, most of them during intense clashes between security forces and defectors from the military in Homs, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

The group said 21 civilians died in the Homs fighting, three died in a security campaign in Hama and one died in Idlib.

Twelve military and security force members were also killed in the fighting, the group said. Twenty Syrian troops defected during the fighting at a checkpoint in Homs, the observatory said.

The Local Coordinating Committees, an opposition group that organizes protests, said 26 civiliians had died across Syria on Monday, including 22 it said had died in Homs amid intense fighting. A heavy security presence was visible in residential neighborhoods targeting separate funerals for two protesters killed Sunday, the group said.

Among other incidents, seven members of one family were injured, one fatally, by machine-gun fire from Syrian security forces, and three soldiers and a police officer died when defectors blew up a military vehicle using a remote-controlled explosive, according to the observatory.

CNN cannot independently confirm events in Syria, which restricts international journalists from accessing many parts of the country.

Also, French authorities said Monday they have no evidence to support claims of an attack on the Syrian Cultural Center in Paris on Saturday.

The official state news agency SANA, citing the Syrian Embassy, said attackers tore up the Syrian flag, broke a surveillance camera and other gear. Some climbed the building's facade, broke a window and took some equipment from inside, SANA reported.

But a spokeswoman for the French foreign ministry said she had received no reports of such an attack.

The United Nations estimates that about 3,000 people have died in Syria in the seven months since the government's crackdown on protesters began.

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