Muslim Brotherhood Backs Syrian Protesters

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The Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement Friday encouraging Syrian protesters to press on with their demonstrations. Syrian activists have called for a "Day of Rage" following Friday's Muslim prayers.

"You were born free so don't let a tyrant enslave you," read a statement by exiled leaders of the group's Syrian branch.

The Muslim Brotherhood -- now empowered in Egypt following the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak's regime -- was outlawed in 1982 by then Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, father of current president, Bashar al-Assad, after staging an uprising.

More than 450 people have been killed since the uprisings began in mid-March, according to some reports.

Despite the growing death toll, activists appear unfazed by government warnings on state-controlled television Thursday against any "march, demonstration or sit in" not approved by the Interior Ministry.

"We are preparing for a big demonstration today," AP quoted an activist in Banias as saying. "The people want the downfall of the regime."

As in Iran, Assad has banned foreign media from covering the demonstrations, but human rights groups and eyewitnesses reported clashes between army units in Daraa.

And an estimated 200 members of Assad's ruling Baath party resigned over the government's brutal crackdown, according to the report.

The Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood has also been actively involved in anti-government demonstrations in the Hashemite Kingdom, where King Abdullah II has called for reforms to his government.

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AP contributed to this report.

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