15 Killed In Clashes Between Protesters, Security Forces In Syria

Escalating violence between Syrian security forces and anti-government protesters claimed 15 people Wednesday in the city of Daraa, witnesses and rights activists said. Syrian state television reported the government fired the governor of Daraa province, a flash point of anti-government protests.

There was no breakdown on the casualties. According to activists and witnesses, seven people died shortly after dawn prayers near al Omari mosque. Security personnel tried to storm the area where protesters took positions to demand government reforms, an opposition spokesman said.

Later, about 3,000 protesters from neighboring towns gathered outside Daraa and clashed with an army unit known for its loyalty to President Bashar al-Assad, activists and witnesses said. The army unit is headed by a family member, Maher al-Assad, said the opposition spokesman.

Eight more people died in the later clashes, bringing the death toll Wednesday to 15, according to the sources. Overall, at least 21 people have died in unrest in the city since Friday.