Beirut: Syria's state news agency said snipers killed a soldier on Thursday in the coastal city of Baniyas, where authorities had been trying to ease tensions after protests against President Bashar Al Assad.

Rights campaigners had said authorities had agreed to replace secret police in Banias with army patrols as part of a deal to reduce tension in the restive city.

The agency quoted a source saying "a group of armed snipers shot today a number of army members while they patrolled the city of Banias... One was martyred and another wounded".

Aleppo, Syria's most populated city, on Wednesday witnessed its first reported anti-government protests, which observers say could have serious repercussions on the country's stability.

Approximately 1,000 students from the University of Aleppo took to the streets chanting slogans in support of protesters in Daraa and Baniyas. Both cities have witnessed clashes over the past week and the death toll is rising.

In focus: Unrest in the Middle East

More than 3,000 women and children protested in Baniyas on Wednesday, demanding the release of husbands and children arrested by security forces on Friday.

The women blocked the highway under the bridge of Al Marqab and vowed not to move until their demands are met.

Speaking to Gulf News, Hasna M., a protester, said they marched two kilometres — from the city centre to the bridge — chanting ‘God, Syria and Liberty'.

Another group from the village of Al Bayda, 10 kilometres south of Baniyas, gathered under the Bustan bridge to demand the release of their relatives.

They also demanded that the lockdown on Baniyas be lifted to allow food and other necessities into the city.

Activists reported disruptions in phone and internet services and cutting off of power supply in areas witnessing protests.

Ammar Qurabi, head of Syria's National Organisation for Human Rights, said in a phone interview from Cairo that he lost contact with five members of his organisation in Baniyas.

His contacts in Syria have also reported blackouts in the Daraa area. Electricity in the village of Al Bayda was cut, Damascus-based human rights activist Razan Zaitouneh said on her Facebook page.

With inputs from agencies