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At least 18 people people killed in demonstrations across Syria (UPDATE)

Arab World Materials 25 September 2011 00:45
At least 18 people were killed Saturday in demonstrations across Syria, while pro-regime protesters in Damascus attacked the French ambassador to Syria, Eric Chevallier, according to witnesses.
At least 18 people people killed in demonstrations across Syria (UPDATE)

Updates death toll (first version posted at 21:43)

At least 18 people were killed Saturday in demonstrations across Syria, while pro-regime protesters in Damascus attacked the French ambassador to Syria, Eric Chevallier, according to witnesses.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission, a group of activists who have joined up to protest against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, said that 18 protesters were killed when security forces cracked down on pro-democracy protesters, dpa reported.

At least 12 of them were killed in the central Syrian province of Homs, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Chevallier was attacked by protesters loyal to al-Assad who threw eggs and stones at him, a witness told the German Press Agency dpa.

"The crowd, who were chanting slogans in support of al-Assad, saw the ambassador leaving the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and started throwing stones and eggs as the ambassador and his delegation were getting in their cars," said the witness, who asked not to be named.

France has been increasingly critical of al-Assad and his government, which has answered anti-government protests with fierce crackdowns.

An estimated 2,700 people have been killed, including at least 100 children, since the protests - calling for the ouster of al-Assad - started in mid-March, according to the United Nations.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe on Monday accused the Syrian regime of "crimes against humanity."

On September 13, Chevallier and his US counterpart, Robert Ford, attended a remembrance ceremony for Syrian activist Ghiyath Matar, who reportedly died under torture.

On Friday, the European Union imposed a fresh round of sanctions on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The EU approved the banning of foreign investment in its oil sector and the supply of bank notes made in Europe.

Syrian authorities have accused "terrorist groups" of causing the unrest in the country.

Meanwhile, the Syrian army's deputy chief of staff, Bassam Najm Eddin, died of a heart attack on Friday.

The official SANA news agency reported on Saturday that his burial would take place in the martyrs' cemetery in Damascus.

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