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Shaaban said that a group of Palestinians had come into Latakia from a refugee camp with weapons and opened fire, killing a policeman and two protesters.

“These are not peaceful protests demanding accelerated reforms … what is happening in Syria now is an attempt to sow civil strife,” she said.

A resident of Latakia who spoke to The Associated Press from home reported hearing gunfire Saturday evening.

A Syrian official told The Associated Press that two passers-by were killed and two others wounded in Latakia by sniper fire from rooftops. He denied that the army had opened fire on protesters.

A hospital official in Latakia also said there were two dead and two wounded. He declined to give any other details.

Footage on a Facebook site run by Syrian activists showed what it said were the dead and wounded in Latakia. Young men carried one man by his limbs through a street, then another. They laid the second man limp in the street.

“It’s the military police!” one shouted.

Footage from an opposition Syrian news agency uploaded onto YouTube claimed to show another man killed in Latakia.

Men screamed, “Oh God! Oh God!” as they laid the body of the young man on the floor, his face smeared with blood and a gaping hole close to his jaw.

The authenticity of the footage could not be independently confirmed.

During the week of unrest, Syrian authorities have detained two Americans, a Vermont student and a dual U.S.-Egyptian citizen accused of selling photos and videos of demonstrations.

The state news agency Sana alleged that the man had confessed to selling the footage to a Colombian woman. He was later identified by relatives as Mohammed Radwan, 32, of Austin, Texas.

Radwan’s cousin, Nora Shalaby, said she last heard from him on Friday when he tweeted that he was at a mosque in Damascus where security forces were clashing with anti-government protesters.

A Vermont man said his 21-year-old son Pathik Root, who had been missing since March 18, has been found to be in Syrian custody. Tom Root said his son, who had been studying Arabic in Damascus, was detained during a demonstration in the capital. He said he believes his son was watching, and not participating, in the demonstration.

Assad appeared to be trying to appease demonstrators in mostly Sunni Daraa, pulling back police and soldiers. His government also released hundreds of political prisoners in an attempt to appease demonstrators furious about the violent government crackdown on dissent.

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