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The regime blames the unrest on a foreign conspiracy and often issues reports on its state-run media that contradict widespread witness accounts and video footage provided by witnesses.

The security forces appear to be intent on crushing dissent in Latakia, which has seen large anti-Assad protests since the Syrian uprising began in mid-March. On Friday, as many as 10,000 marched there, calling for the president’s ouster.

The brutality has fueled international outrage with Syria, a hardline Arab state closely allied with Iran, and led to new sanctions against the regime by the U.S., Canada and Europe.

On Monday, Assad sacked the governor for the key northwestern province of Aleppo, Ali Mansour, and replaced him with Mowaffak Khallouf, SANA said.

No reason was given for the sacking. But while the opposition has yet to bring out the middle and upper middle classes in Damascus and Aleppo, the two economic powerhouses, protests have been building in Aleppo. Four people were killed there Friday as security forces attacked protesters.