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    Syrian authorities deny excessive death toll among protesters

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    Only 70 civilians were killed in clashes with the army and police during anti-government protests in Syria, official SANA news agency reported.

    Only 70 civilians were killed in clashes with the army and police during anti-government protests in Syria, official SANA news agency reported.

    According to Syrian opposition, some 450 people are believed to have been killed in mass protests against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, which have raged in the country since mid-March.

    "We stress that the number of the army and police martyrs reached 78, and the number of civilians reached 70 since the eruption of the mercenary violence that targeted the safety of citizens and homeland," SANA quoted an unidentified military source on Thursday.

    Syria's Al-Baath ruling party on Thursday denied media reports about resignations of 200 party members in Daraa and Banyas in protest against a crackdown on pro-democracy activists.

    Syrian mass protests started in Daraa on the border with Jordan on March 18. They were prompted by the arrest of a group of schoolchildren who wrote anti-government graffiti on walls. The unrest later spread to other Syrian regions.

    In response to the protests, Assad formed a new government, promised a score of political and economic reforms, and even lifted the almost five-decade long state of emergency in the country.

    However, these measures failed to pacify the opposition prompting the government to resort to violence in dealing with the protesters.

     

    DAMASCUS, April 29 (RIA Novosti)

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