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Much of the most serious violence has been concentrated in the drought-parched southern city of Daraa — where some 25 people were killed Friday — and the Mediterranean port city of Latakia.

Twelve people were killed in Latakia two weeks ago, bringing the unrest to an area with strong historical ties to Mr. Assad’s minority Alawite sect, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Like Latakia, Banias has a potentially explosive mix of religious groups and sects. It also has a major oil refinery, which is the main point of export for Syrian oil.

AP writer Elizabeth A. Kennedy contributed to this report from Cairo.