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Pro-democracy activists said at least 15 protesters, including a Kurdish opposition figure, had been killed in Syria on Friday amid concerns that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad could extend its violent crackdown to critics in neighbouring Lebanon and Turkey.

‘Fifteen protesters were killed and more than 50 others were injured in the crackdown that engulfed the flashpoint cities of Homs, Daraa and others areas at the outskirts of the capital Damascus,’ activists based in Lebanon told dpa.

‘Among the killed is Kurdish opposition figure Mashaal Timo, who was killed in Qamishly when Syrian security forces stormed his house,’ the activist said, adding that Timo’s son was seriously injured in the raid.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the London-based Syrian observatory, said he had received confirmation that at least nine named people had been killed.

It is difficult to verify news coming out of Syria as foreign journalists and human rights organizations are banned from entering the country.

Broadcaster Al Jazeera reported that Syrian security forces, using poison gas, tried to disperse a protest in the Daraa’s Al-Sabil region.

Activists said Syrian troops also cordoned off mosques to prevent protests after Friday prayers.

The intensity of the violence against the pro-democracy protesters, and the insistence of the Syrian regime to chase activists and army defectors outside its borders, have increased fears among opposition figures.

‘The circle of violence is widening in Syria, and Syrian troops are now pursuing activists and army defectors in Turkey and Lebanon,’ Abdel Rahman told dpa.

On Sunday, the Syrian National Council was formed in Turkey as an umbrella coalition of opposition figures to represent the main factions standing against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The regime’s relentless crackdown was beginning to severely test the patience even of its international allies, with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev saying the regime would ‘have to go if they can’t push through reforms.’

Speaking at a meeting of Russia’s National Security Council, Medvedev said Russia, ‘no less than any other country,’ wants to see an early end to the violence.

Russia, along with China, on Wednesday vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the Assad regime.

Meanwhile, Syria took a defending stand when Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mokdad countered criticisms leveled at his government, calling the pro-democracy fighters ‘terrorists.’

Mokdad told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that 1,100 government officials had been killed in clashes with pro-democracy activists.

Al Mokdad said the figure includes civil servants, police, and army troops, Lebanese radio station ‘Voice of Lebanon’ reported.

On Thursday, the UN organization released figures estimating that 2,900 pro-democracy activists have died since March.

The UN Human Rights Council said it would issue a final report on the situation in Syria next week.

M&C

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