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Syria - Dec 29, 2011 - 20:33

Last modified: 29 Dec 2011 17:33

Syrian security forces opened fire Thursday on tens of thousands protesting outside a mosque in a Damascus suburb, close to a municipal building that members of the Arab League monitoring mission were believed to be visiting.

Activists said at least four people were killed.

Troops also fired live ammunition and tear gas to disperse large protests in several other areas of the country, including central Damascus, killing at least 21 people nationwide, activists said.

The ongoing violence, and new questions about the human rights record of the head of the Arab League monitors, are reinforcing the opposition's view that Syria's limited cooperation with the observers is nothing more than a farce for President Bashar Assad's regime to buy time and forestall more international condemnation and sanctions.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said about 20,000 people were protesting outside the Grand Mosque in the Damascus suburb of Douma when troops opened fire.

Cars belonging to the Arab League monitors were seen in front of a municipal building close to the mosque, he said.

Abdul-Rahman and other activists said the monitors were barred by security officials from entering Douma following the killings, after the situation deteriorated. [Source: AP]