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Syrian gov't troops kill 2 armed near capital: witness

(Xinhua)

09:40, August 29, 2011

DAMASCUS, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- Two armed men were killed in clashes with Syrian government forces in Harasta suburb of capital Damascus late Saturday, an eye witness told Xinhua Sunday.

The witness, who asked for anonymity, said intense shooting occurred Saturday in Harasta after Ramadan night prayers between the government forces and armed men, adding that a number of parked cars were smashed with bullets from both sides.

The gunmen were armed with M16 rifles and pistols, said the witness.

After the shooting the government forces sealed off entrances of Harasta and prevented people of entering it, the witness added.

The report couldn't be independently verified as journalists are banned from going to restive areas.

Harasta has been a scene of anti-government protests since May.

About 2,200 people have been killed since protests began in mid- March, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said this week, adding that 350 of them had died since the beginning of Ramadan.

A UN humanitarian assessment team said on Friday after wrapping up a five-day visit to Syria that there is an "urgent need" to protect Syrian civilians from the use of excessive force. The team, however, said there is no nationwide humanitarian crisis in Syria.

The five-month-old unrest has sparked an ongoing blistering criticism and condemnation over the alleged use of force by Syrian leadership on anti-government protesters.

U.S. President Barak Obama last week made his explicit call for al-Assad to step aside, underscoring the tough talk with new sanctions that hit the largest state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria and the SyriaTel cell phone operator.

The Syrian leadership repeatedly brushed off the international uproar as "flagrant interference in Syria's internal affairs," blaming the unrest on armed groups and extremists backed by foreign conspiracy and stressed that there would be no letup in its crackdown on those who have intimidated the people and sabotaged public and private properties.

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