Middle East

Syria unrest: Shooting erupts in seaport of Baniyas

Four people including a security forces officer are said to have been shot dead in the Syrian port of Baniyas two days after deadly clashes in the south.

Pro-government militia shot three protesters, eyewitnesses said, while state media reported the death of the officer in an ambush.

The BBC received information that 23 people were killed on Friday in Deraa, the city at the centre of protests.

The government says 19 of these were members of the security forces.

Syrian rights groups said security forces had opened fire at funerals.

The National Organisation for Human Rights accused the security forces of using unjustified violence to break up peaceful demonstrations at the funerals, for for protesters killed in previous clashes.

State TV said earlier that 19 members of the police and other security forces in Deraa had been shot dead and 75 wounded by "armed groups".

A protest was also held in Baniyas on Friday, the TV added, describing it as a peaceful rally to call for faster reforms.

Protests against President Bashar al-Assad's 11-year rule have centred on Deraa since mid-March.

He has offered to consider reforms but activists say his proposals do not go far enough.

In the ambush near Baniyas reported by Syria's state news agency Sana, a second member of the security forces was reportedly wounded.

Telephone lines, internet access and electricity are apparently cut in the area of the port, 300km (185 miles) north-west of the capital Damascus, making it difficult to get a clear picture of the situation.