UPDATE 5-Syrian forces kill three protesters in southern city

Fri Mar 18, 2011 10:59pm GMT

* Troop reinforcements flown to Deraa - resident

* Deraa protest follows rare demonstration in Damascus

* YouTube footage shows people chanting against tycoon

* Government says "infiltrators" tried to cause chaos

(Adds U.S. comment paragraphs 10-11)

By Suleiman al-Khalidi

DERAA, Syria, March 18 (Reuters) - Syrian security forces killed three protesters in the southern city of Deraa on Friday, residents said, in the most violent response to protests against Syria's ruling elite since revolts swept through the Arab world.

The demonstrators were taking part in a peaceful protest demanding political freedoms and an end to corruption in Syria, which has been ruled under emergency laws by President Bashar al-Assad's Baath Party for nearly half a century.

Smaller protests took place in the central city of Homs and the coastal town of Banias, home to one of Syria's two oil refineries, activists said.   Continued...

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