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At defiant march, Syrians shout 'No more fear!'

DARAA, Syria — Syrians chanting "No more fear!" held a defiant march Monday after a deadly government crackdown failed to quash three days of mass protests in this southern city — an extraordinary outpouring in a country that is known for brutally suppressing dissent.

Riot police armed with clubs chased the small group away without casualties, but traces of earlier, larger demonstrations were everywhere: burned-out and looted government buildings, a dozen torched vehicles, an office of the ruling Baath party with its windows knocked out.

The unrest in Daraa started Friday after troops fired at protesters, killing five. Over the next two days, two more people died.

On Monday, an Associated Press team was allowed into Daraa, accompanied by two government minders who kept them away from protesters and would not allow photographs of demonstrations. Army checkpoints circled the city and plainclothes officers were deployed in key areas.

The violence has become a major challenge for Bashar Assad, who has tried to contain the situation by freeing detainees and promising to fire officials responsible for the violence.

Prolonged disturbances in hard-line Syria would be a major expansion of the unrest tearing through the Arab world.

Bahrain blames Iran: King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa blamed a foreign plot for his nation's weekslong unrest, using veiled language Monday to accuse Iran of fomenting an uprising by the Shiite majority in the Sunni-ruled island kingdom. The Bahraini opposition's main demand is for a constitutional monarchy that would keep the royal family in power but would let people elect a government.

At defiant march, Syrians shout 'No more fear!' 03/21/11 [Last modified: Monday, March 21, 2011 9:57pm]
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