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Activist group: 7 killed in Syrian protests

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: General strikes reported across Syria
  • Four people are killed in Deir Ezzor
  • Three are killed in Homs
  • "Armed groups" were threatening and terrifying Deir Ezzor residents

(CNN) -- Seven people died Thursday during protests in two Syrian cities, an activist group told CNN.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four people were killed when security forces opened fire on protesters in the northeastern city of Deir Ezzor, as demonstrators gathered in the city's Freedom Square.

The group, citing an account from a doctor in the city, said 10 people were also wounded, some of them critically.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency published a report saying that "veiled armed groups on Thursday tried to put up barriers on roads in Deir Ezzor province."

"The armed groups also forced shop owners to close their shops in the city, terrified families, threatened citizens and destroyed some stores whose owners refused to respond to their demands."

In the western city of Homs, two civilians and one security force member were killed as a result of heavy gunfire and military and security operations in Bab Sabaa and other neighborhoods in the city, the human rights group said.

Eleven civilians and four military personnel also were wounded in Homs, the activist group said.

In Hama, in western Syria, a SANA correspondent in the city said that "some armed men kidnapped two law enforcement members and a high school student."

There was a wave of general strikes in Homs, Hama, Deir Ezzor and other locations, according to witnesses.

The casualties come a day before demonstrators are expected to take to the streets after Muslim prayers, as they have done every Friday in recent weeks.

This is the latest violence across Syria amid anti-government demonstrations that have been taking place since mid-March. CNN was not able to independently verify the accuracy of the reports.

Deir Ezzor province borders Iraq, far from the capital of Damascus and other western cities where protests have erupted, such as Homs. But Deir Ezzor and other towns in the northeast have had their share of demonstrations.

President Bashar al-Assad's regime has drawn criticism at home and abroad for its tough crackdown against the protesters.

Activists blame the deaths of civilians in demonstrations on security personnel. The government has consistently attributed the violence over the last four months to "armed groups."

CNN's Nada Husseini and Tracy Doueiry contributed to this report

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