Security forces shot dead four people who shouted slogans against President Bashar al-Assad at a rally organised by the authorities in the city of Hama on Sunday to show popular anger at an Arab League decision to suspend Syria, local activists said.

Security forces were leading public workers and students into Orontes Square when groups broke away and started shouting 'the people want the fall of the regime', one of the activists in Hama, 240 km (150 miles) north of Damascus, said.

They escaped into the alleyways but were followed, and four were killed, the activist added.

State television said millions of Syrians assembled in public arenas across the country to denounce the Arab League decision, which came in response to a crackdown by Assad's forces on pro-democracy protesters, which the United Nations says has killed 3,500 people.

Syrian officials blame the unrest on terrorists and foreign backed Islamist militants and say that 1,100 soldiers and police have been killed.

The television showed crowds carrying Syrian flags and posters of Assad at public squares in Damascus, the eastern city of Raqqa and the coastal cities of Latakia and Tartous.

Syrian authorities have banned most independent media since the uprising demanding political freedoms and an end to 41 years of Assad family rule began in March.

(Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis, Amman newsroom; Editing by Michael Roddy)