Protests were held in several Syrian cities on Friday, including in Latakia where injuries were reported [Reuters]

Activists have called for daily rallies in Syria, a day after at least 27 protesters were killed in pro-democracy demonstrations.

Most of the casualties occurred in the southern city of Daraa, where thousands were expected to attend funerals on Saturday.

"After midday prayers, they are getting ready to bury at least 17 of the dead from Friday and with the surrounding villages that number rises to 27," a rights activist in the city, 60km south of Damascus, told AFP.

"The burial of each of the martyrs will become a demonstration against the regime and in favour of freedom, even if the interior ministry statement warns there will be further violence," another local activist said.

The government says 19 policemen were killed in Friday's unrest and blamed "armed gangs" for the violence.

It has said security forces are authorised to open fire when needed to ensure security.

Fears of a 'bloodbath'

Ammar Qurabi, the chairman of the Syrian National Human Rights Organisation, speaking from Cairo, said there were fears of renewed violence.

"I fear the reaction of the authorities if the people of Daraa express their feelings too vociferously during the funerals, and it could turn into a bloodbath," he told AFP.

Meanwhile, Reuters quoted residents in the coastal city of Latakia as saying security forces had used live ammunition overnight to disperse a pro-democracy protest by hundreds of people in a Sunni district there, causing scores of injuries and possible deaths.

Before accumulating a complete tally from Friday's violence, rights group Amnesty International said it has recorded the names of 171 people killed since the first protesters died in Daraa on March 18.

The group based its figure on information received from rights activists, lawyers and other sources and said the majority appeared to have been killed by live ammunition fired by the security forces.

Protesters in Syria are demanding an end to the country's emergency law, in place since 1963. They are also calling for greater political freedoms, reforms and an end to corruption.

Source: Agencies