44 killed in anti-regime protests in Syria: activist

"Syrian authorities are continuing to use excessive force and live ammunition to face popular protests in various regions throughout the country," said Ammar Qurabi, head of the National Organisation for Human Rights, told AFP.

Qurabi said 26 people were killed in the province of Idlib and 13 in Homs. Two people were also killed in the eastern town of Deir Ezzor, one in Daraya, a suburb of the capital Damascus, one in the coastal city of Latakia and one in central Hama.

The authoritarian government has responded to the protests that have swept Syria since March 15 with a brutal crackdown that has left at least 850 people dead and hundreds injured, according to rights groups. Thousands have been arrested.

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