On Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad blamed the country's pro-democracy protests on foreign conspirators and announced no concrete reforms. Two days later, deadly protests across the country after Friday prayers suggest the speech failed to extinguish the unrest roiling the country and threatening the ruling Baath Party.
Syrian security forces killed at least five people when they opened fire on more than a 1,000 protesters in the town of Douma, north of the capital, Damascus, The New York Times reports. The AFP says the protesters had been hurling stones at the the security forces, who initially responded with tear gas. In Damascus, according to the Times, security forces and government supporters surrounded protesters inside the Al Rifai mosque, beating anyone who attempted to escape with batons and killing at least one protester. Protests also broke out in the coastal cities of Latakia and Banias, the southern city of Daraa, and mainly Kurdish cities in the northeast such as Qamishli (pictured above).
The Syrian government acknowledged on Friday, for the first time, that pro-reform demonstrations had taken place, but initially described them as peaceful, Al Jazeera notes. But Syria's state news agency is now reporting that armed groups opened fire on citizens and security forces in Douma and in the city of Homs, killing several people, according to Reuters.
The State Department announced on Friday that Syria had released two Americans detained for several days but offered no further details. CNN identified the two as an Egyptian-American named Muhammad Radwan who participated in the Egyptian revolution and offered a confession on Syrian state television last week, and Pathik "Tik" Root, a Middlebury College student from Vermont who was studying abroad in Damascus.