Syrian troops enter key port city of Latakia after 12 killed in protests
Elsewhere in Syria, anti-government protesters torched a police station and tore down a statue of the former President Hafez Assad, father of current President Bashar Assad.
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The Syrian Army deployed troops to the country's primary port on the Mediterranean on Saturday night after a day of violence that saw anti-government demonstrators and government officials trading accusations over the deaths of at least two civilians.
Activists say the two civilians were killed when Syrian security forces opened fire on demonstrators, but government officials claim the two were shot by renegade snipers, reports BBC News.
Syrian presidential adviser Bouthaina Shaaban told the BBC that "armed groups," rather than Syrian forces, were causing the violence in Latakia. Ms. Shaaban also accused Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi, a Qatari cleric who condemned the violence against Syrian protesters Friday, for inciting the violence.
The Syrian government said Sunday that 12 people, including security forces, residents, and two members of shadowy "armed elements" died in the Latakia violence.
Protests across the country
Protesters in the city of Tafas torched a police station and the local headquarters of the Baath Party, which has ruled Syria since 1963. And in Deraa, the city along the Jordanian border which has been the epicenter of Syria's recent anti-government protests, some 300 men tore down a statue of former President Hafez Assad, father of current President Bashar Assad.
AFP adds that in an effort to placate the protesters and show evidence of promised reform, the Syrian government released 260 political prisoners Saturday. Abdul Karim Rihawi of the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights told AFP that the detainees were mainly Islamists, along with 14 Kurds.