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Syria sends troops to curb Latakia “destruction”

Syrian troops on Sunday entered the northern city of Latakia where snipers had killed four people, keeping tensions high in the country despite reform pledges by the embattled government.

"The army entered Latakia... to put an end to the destruction and the murders," the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper reported.

Al-Watan said two security services officers were killed on Saturday and 70 troops wounded in Latakia, 350 kilometers northwest of the capital Damascus.

A high-ranking Syrian official said snipers had shot and killed two passers-by Saturday in the scenic port, one of Syria's most developed areas and a multi-confessional city.

Syrian newspapers dedicated their front-page headlines Sunday to the bloodshed in Latakia, and the government daily Tishrin said 150 people were wounded there in violence Friday and Saturday. Al-Watan blamed "thugs" and said "their identities will soon be revealed."

Authorities have accused Palestinian refugees from a nearby camp of wanting to fuel sectarian strife in Latakia, home to some 450,000 of Christians, Sunni Muslims and Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam.

But Ahmed Jibril, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, denied any Palestinian involvement in Saturday's violence, in a statement published in Al-Watan.

Saturday's bloodshed in Latakia was the latest in a spiral of violence that has gripped Syria since protests broke out on March 15 with demonstrators demanding major reforms in Syria.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

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