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Activists: Clashes in Syria Kill at Least 13

VOA News October 13, 2011

Syrian rights activists say clashes between government security forces and armed men believed to be army defectors have killed at least 13 people across Syria.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says fighting near the Turkish border Thursday killed five people. Activists say witnesses reported explosions and heavy machine gun fire as government troops raided the northwestern town of Binnish in Idlib province.

Activists say additional fighting between government forces and men believed to be army defectors raged in Daraa province, a center for anti-government protests. They say clashes there killed at least eight people there, including six soldiers.

President Bashar al-Assad's government has used military force to try to crush months of opposition protests calling for his departure, including operations against military defectors.

EU diplomats say the European Union Thursday agreed to freeze assets of the Commercial Bank of Syria in its latest round of sanctions aimed at pressuring Assad's government to end the violence.

The addition brings to 19 the number of entities the EU has imposed sanctions on for supporting the Syrian government.

The United Nations human rights office say more than 2,900 people have been killed during the government's crackdown. Syria has blamed much of the violence on "armed gangs" and "terrorists."

In London, Britain summoned Syria's ambassador to discuss allegations of Syrian intimidation of protesters in Britain who are demonstrating against President Assad. British Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament Thursday that harassment of demonstrators in Britain is unacceptable.

The summons comes a day after the United States announced it has charged a Syrian-born U.S. citizen with spying on anti-Assad protesters in the United States. Syria immediately issued a statement denying that the suspect was working for Damascus.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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