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Several activists confirmed the death.

The Syrian government countered that a group of “criminal killers” attacked security forces and opened fire indiscriminately in Banias and surrounding areas Tuesday, killing a number of civilians.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said security forces enlisted the army’s help to chase the criminals out of residential areas.

One soldier was killed, and two soldiers and six policemen were wounded, the report said. Three members of the armed group also were killed and eight wounded. Some were arrested, it added.

The detention of protesters, apparently including teenagers, has enraged residents. The witness said security forces forced the men to chant pro-Assad slogans. The accounts could not be independently confirmed.

The two villages are several miles from the port city of Banias, which the army has sealed off during days of unrest. Security forces killed four protesters in Banias on Sunday. The electricity in Bayda appeared to have been cut.

Friday marked the single bloodiest day of the uprising, when 37 were killed around the country.

Also Wednesday, the Syrian government denied a Human Rights Watch charge that Syrian forces prevented ambulances from reaching the wounded Friday in the southern town of Daraa and in Harasta, near Damascus.

An Interior Ministry statement said unidentified gunmen shot at people and prevented ambulances from transporting the wounded to hospitals.

State-run television aired what it said were confessions by three members of a “terrorist cell” on Wednesday, saying they received money and weapons from a Lebanese lawmaker to instigate protests in Syria and create chaos across the country.

The lawmaker, Jamal Jarrah, laughed off the Syrian-aired confessions and denied any involvement. His Future Movement bloc also denied the claims, saying it had no direct or indirect involvement in events in Syria.