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Thousands rally in support of Assad

Tens of thousands of Syrians have held a massive rally in support of embattled president Bashar Assad.

But the regime's crackdown on dissent continued in opposition areas as security forces killed at least four people, including a teenager, activists said.

The demonstration in the coastal city of Latakia came one day after a similar pro-regime rally in the capital Damascus, as authorities try to galvanise supporters in the face of a seven-month uprising against Assad.

The UN estimates that the government crackdown has killed 3,000 people.

A 14-year-old boy in the southern village of Dael was among at least four people killed by Syrian forces during security raids on Thursday, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Co-ordination Committees, another activist group.

A video posted online showed blood pouring from the teenager's head, soaking his blue T-shirt, as another boy screamed in the background.

The video could not be independently verified. Syria has banned most foreign journalists and prevented independent reporting.

Assad's main bases of support include Syrians who have benefited financially from the regime, minority groups who feel they will be targeted if the Sunni majority takes over, and others who see no clear and safe alternative to him.

Both sides of the conflict remain determined. Anti-regime protesters pour into the streets across the country every Friday, defying the near-certain barrage of shelling and sniper fire.

But the opposition has yet to bring out the middle and upper-middle classes in Damascus and Aleppo, the two economic powerhouses, although protests have been building. Latakia, the site of Thursday's pro-regime demonstration, has strong historical ties to the Assad family's minority Alawite sect.

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