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Activists: 10 Killed After Syrian Gunboats Fire on Coastal City

A video grab shows Syrian protesters waving a national flag in Latakia.
At least 23 people have been killed after Syrian gunboats on August 14 pounded poor, densely populated neighborhoods in the coastal city of Latakia with heavy machine gun fire, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said.

Ground troops, backed by tanks and security agents, were also said to have stormed several neighborhoods in the Mediterranean city.

Witnesses said the crack of machine-gun fire and loud explosions could be heard across the predominantly-Sunni populated city, which has already seen a fierce crackdown by President Bashir al-Assad's forces.

The latest assault was part of a brutal clampdown underway in several parts of Syria to repress a rebellion against Assad's rule.

On August 13, at least 20 tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled into Latakia's al-Ramel district amid intense gunfire that sent many residents fleeing the area.

Activists said at least two people were killed. On August 12, an estimated 10,000 people took to the streets there, calling for Assad's ouster.

Assad is from Syria's minority Alawite sect. Latakia is majority Sunni with a large Alawite population, encouraged by the state to move there with offers of cheap land and jobs.

Demonstrations against Assad during the five-month uprising against his autocratic rule have been biggest in Sunni neighborhoods of Latakia, including Salibiya in the center of the city and Raml al-Filistini and al-Shaab on the southern shore.

Troops and tanks have been besieging the two neighborhoods for months, residents say, with garbage going uncollected and electricity regularly being cut.

compiled from agency reports