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Other signs of growing disorder include fierce gunbattles between army units and fellow soldiers who have defected to join the opposition. There are also signs that some of the protesters, who have remained largely peaceful, are taking up arms to defend themselves from regime attacks.

The crowd of mourners in Qamishli Saturday swelled to more than 50,000 people, Osso said.

Security forces fired on the crowd, killing five mourners and wounding several others, he said.

An activist network called the Local Coordination Committees also said five people were killed and several others were injured in the gunfire. The group said the city has been completely shut down after a general strike was declared to mourn Tammo.

Security forces also fired on a funeral procession in the Damascus suburb of Douma for three people killed a day earlier, activists said. A 14-year-old boy was killed and 10 other people were wounded, according to the Local Coordination Committees and the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Tammo, a 53-year-old former political prisoner, was a spokesman for the Kurdish Future Party. He was also a member of the executive committee of the newly formed Syrian National Council, a broad-based front bringing together opposition figures inside and outside the country in an attempt to unify the deeply fragmented dissident movement.

A vocal regime opponent, Tammo had been instrumental in organizing anti-government protests in Qamishli in recent months.

It was not clear who carried out the killing. Some in the opposition said the regime was responsible for his assassination. Osso said Tammo had no enemies and blamed security forces, but others noted there was a power struggle between him and rival Kurdish parties.

State-run news agency SANA reported his killing by “four masked gunmen in a black car,” calling him a “national” opposition leader.


Associated Press writer Yahya Barzanji in Sulaimaniyah contributed to this report.