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Syrian security forces locked down the protest flashpoint town of Banias and raked the nearby village of Baida with gunfire on Tuesday, witnesses told AFP by telephone, as world criticism of the crackdown mounted.

“Security forces and armed men are firing machine guns indiscriminately at the village,” a witness said.

“The gunfire against Baida is intense like the rain. At least one person was injured,” another witness told AFP.

The army kept a stranglehold on the coastal town of Banias, 280 kilometres (175 miles) north of Damascus, where residents said they faced a bread shortage.

“Security forces and the army continue to assault Banias and we know what they are preparing for us,” said Anas al-Shuhri, one of the leaders of anti-regime protesters.

“There is a shortage of bread in the city, electricity is cut and the majority of phone lines are too,” he added.

Abdelbasset, an electrician, told AFP the situation was “extremely bad”.

“The army was redeployed outside the city and the security forces and shabbiha (regime agents) conducted a number of arrests. The town is dead, shops are closed,” he said.

“Banias is surrounded by tanks, no one can get in or out. It is like a prison,” said Yasser, a shopkeeper.

“We cannot get bread anymore in Banias. Bread supplies were brought from (the city of) Tartus but that is not enough. The petrol stations are also closed,” he added. read more AFP

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