Syrian security forces 'shoot 31 people dead'

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Syrian security forces have shot dead 31 people since Friday during demonstrations in a town in the north-west, residents say.

The official Syrian news agency meanwhile said gunmen killed four policemen in the same town, Jisr al-Shughour, as protests against President Bashar al-Assad have grown in the face of a continuing crackdown.

Residents claim the killings began on Friday, when snipers began firing at a funeral for six protesters killed during a demonstration on Friday.

Mourners then set fire to the post office building from which the snipers were shooting, said one Jisr al-Shughour resident, a history teacher. "In the last 24 hours at least 31 people have been shot dead, among them eight mourners at the funeral," he said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 31 civilians and four police died in Jisr al-Shughour. In the eastern city of Deir al-Zor, centre of an oil-producing area, residents said security forces killed two protesters after mourners set ablaze two buildings belonging to Mr Assad's Baath Party, which has ruled Syria since 1963.

Human rights campaigners say security forces shot dead at least 70 protesters in Hama on Friday. At least 1,100 people have been killed by security forces since the demonstrations began, rights groups say.