Syrian state news claimed that at least 40 of the government’s security officers and policemen were killed by “armed gangs” in an ambush and bombing in the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughour.

If true, the attacks would represent the most violent retaliation against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad since anti-government unrest commenced more than three months ago.

Anti-government protesters said they were not in any way connected to the killings of state security officers.

“I have seen no evidence of organized violence by protesters against the regime,” Wissam Tarif, a Syrian human rights activist, told media.

“Protesters do not have weapons they could even use against tanks and helicopters, which the regime is using.”

Over the weekend, human rights activists in Syria say that the military had killed at least 25 people in Jisr by using helicopter gunships and armored cars. Another 13 people were reportedly killed by government forces around the town.

Damascus is blaming the ongoing unrest on foreign agents and Islamic extremists.

In its brutal crackdown against the protesters, the regime has killed at least 1,000 people, while many thousands more are reportedly under arrest. Some detainees have apparently been tortured.

On Monday, human rights groups issued a joint statement which condemned the excessive use of force to disperse peaceful gatherings of unarmed Syrian citizens and called on the government to stop the spiral of violence and assassinations in the streets of Syria.