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Syrian Activists Claim Regime Is Using Force To Break Up Demonstrations

On Day Two of the fragile ceasefire in Syria, activists say that government forces have fired on some anti-Assad regime demonstrators in various parts of the nation.

Reporting from Beirut, NPR's Grant Clark tells our Newscast Desk that activists say security forces began massing outside mosques during Friday prayers, just before the start of protests.

The Guardian says it's been told by Mousab Alhamadee, an activist in Hama, that at least one protester has been killed there today by gunfire from the security forces.

"Here on the ground there isn't any ceasefire from the side of the regime," he told the Guardian, via Skype. "There is a kind of slowdown. They are just slowing down. They are just slowing the number of people they usually kill."

Because journalists cannot operate freely inside Syria — President Bashar Assad's regime tightly controls access — NPR and other news outlets depend on the accounts of activists and citizen journalists inside the country to provide windows into what is happening.

Meanwhile, according to The Associated Press a spokesman for former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who brokered the ceasefire deal, "expressed cautious optimism that the plan has been 'relatively respected' despite the continued presence of government troops and heavy weapons in population centers. Ahmad Fawzi said an advance team of U.N. observers was poised to enter Syria if the Security Council gives the green light later Friday. He said Syria also needs to approve the mission, which envisions a force of 250 observers on the ground."

The U.N. estimates that more than 9,000 people — most of them civilians — have been killed in Syria during the anti-regime protests of the past year.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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