Dozens killed in attack on south Syria demo

Hundreds of Syrians march from the Omayyed mosque in the centre of Damascus' Old City towards Souk Al-Hamadiyeh street on March 25, 2011 chanting: "Daraa is Syria" and "We will sacrifice ourselves for Syria," as protests spread in Syria from the opposition's southern epicentre of Daraa to Damascus and a town south of the capital, where authorities moved to arrest at least five demonstrators (AFP)

Dozens of people have been killed by Syrian security forces who were heading to join protesters in the city of Daraa, sources said

A total of 17 people were killed Friday when a demonstration headed to the Syrian protest city of Daraa was raked by gunfire, a human rights activist said.

Another source said that death toll was more than 20 and could rise further.

"Seventeen protesters were killed in a shooting in the village of Sanamen as they were headed toward Daraa," a tribal town 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Damascus, he told AFP, requesting anonymity.

The news could not be confirmed by independent sources or hospitals in the area.

The Daraa-based activist said security forces on Friday also opened fire on protesters who gathered near the home in Daraa of the town governor, who was fired from the post earlier this week.

Activists have accused security forces of killing more than 100 people on Wednesday alone in the town, which is home to some 75,000 people.

Journalists on Friday were asked to leave Daraa, a tribal town near the Syrian-Jordanian border, shortly before the funerals of two people killed in a shooting on protesters earlier this week.

One resident, contacted by telephone, said residents had gathered for the burials and marched toward the cemetery, chanting: "With our souls, with our blood, we will sacrifice for our martyrs."

AFP reporters saw soldiers deploy on the roads leading to Daraa, bringing with them sandbags, as they were escorted out of the town.

Syria this month began to witness unprecedented protests demanding major reforms in the country, which has been ruled by the Baath party for close to 50 years.

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