DAMASCUS – Syrian security forces fired on anti-regime protesters on Wednesday near a mosque, killing five and wounding scores in the flashpoint southern town of Daraa, a rights activist said.

"Security forces fired live bullets and teargas on protesters" staging a sit-in near the Omari mosque in Daraa, which has witnessed protests for five straight days, he said.

"They cut off electricity and the firing started," he added.

Syria, which is still under a 1963 emergency law banning demonstrations, has witnessed a string of small but unprecedented protests demanding the end of the ruling Assad regime for one week now.

Daraa, a town about 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Damascus and home to large tribal families, has been the focal point of the rallies, the latest in a string of uprisings against long-running autocratic regimes in the Arab world.

An AFP photographer and videographer in Daraa said their car was stopped in the old town and their equipment confiscated.

After being taken in for questioning, they received an apology from the authorities, but had still not received their equipment back.

The photographer said soldiers were manning checkpoints at all entries to the town and were cross-checking the identity cards of travellers with a list of names they had compiled.

The demonstrations also spilled into the nearby towns of Jassem and Noa, where eyewitnesses said more than 2,000 protesters gathered for a rally before being quickly dispersed by security forces.