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Activists: Syria forces kill 2 children
Activists: Syria forces open fire, 5 people including 2 children killed
By The Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) ' Syrian forces killed at least five people ' including two children ' as they fired on anti-government demonstrations across the country on Friday, activists said.

The violence comes as the government tries to choke off a 9-month-old popular uprising demanding the ouster of President Bashar Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for more than 40 years.

Assad has refused to buckle to the pressure, and the United Nations estimates more than 4,000 people have been killed in the government crackdown on dissent.

Two boys, ages 10 and 12, were fatally shot near separate government checkpoints in Homs, a center of opposition to the regime, according to activists.

Security forces also reportedly fired on protests in Homs, the Damascus suburbs and the eastern city of Deir el-Zour.

In the southern town of Daraa, activists said telephone and Internet lines were cut.

The reports could not be confirmed because Syria has banned most foreign journalists and prevented independent reporting. Accounts from activists and witnesses, along with amateur videos posted online, provide key channels of information.

The death toll was compiled from reports by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the activist coalition called the Local Coordinating Committees.

Homs has emerged as the bloodied epicenter of the uprising.

A major Syrian pipeline carrying oil to a refinery in Homs province was blown up Thursday in an attack the government blamed on terrorists.

But the opposition accuses the government of playing on fears of religious extremism and terrorism to rally support behind Assad, who has portrayed himself as the only force that can stabilize the country.

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