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Protests flare after reform gesture

Hundreds of Syrian protesters marched in several cities on Friday, rejecting a limited reform gesture by President Bashar al-Assad, and security forces beat demonstrators outside a Damascus mosque, witnesses said.

world Updated: Apr 01, 2011 23:50 IST

Hundreds of Syrian protesters marched in several cities on Friday, rejecting a limited reform gesture by President Bashar al-Assad, and security forces beat demonstrators outside a Damascus mosque, witnesses said.

Civic activists told Reuters that protests broke out in the capital Damascus, Banias and the port city of Latakia against Assad's authoritarian rule after he stopped short of a clear commitment to meet popular demands for more freedoms.

Two weeks of unprecedented unrest in the tightly controlled Arab state, under monolithic Baath Party rule for almost 50 years, has left at least 61 people over the past two weeks.

Security forces and Assad loyalists attacked protesters with batons as they left the Rifaii mosque in the Kfar Sousseh district of Damascus after Friday prayers, a witness said.

At least six protesters were arrested and dozens where beaten as they made their way out of the mosque, the witness said.

Residents said police also fired tear gas at protesters in the Damascus suburb of Douma.