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Syrian army units have reportedly deployed across the port city of Latakia, after 12 people were reported killed during antigovernment protests in the city.

Activists said security forces on March 26 opened fire as protesters began to set the headquarters of the ruling Baath party ablaze. Authorities accused armed groups of attacking the protesters.

The incident follows reports that more than 20 people were killed on March 25 in the southern town of Deraa and other areas during demonstrations against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian authorities have released Diana Jawabra, a Deraa protester whose arrest this month helped fuel the mass protests in the city.

Authorities on March 26 freed 260 political detainees in a bid to end the unrest, which activists say has killed more than 126 people since protests erupted less than two weeks ago.

Officials have put the death toll at 27 people, 20 of them protesters

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