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Fourteen dead after truck bomb in Syria

A string of explosions struck a police truck transporting prisoners in a tense area of northwestern Syria yesterday, killing at least 14 people.

Government troops also battled defectors in the north in fighting that left 10 people dead.

The official state news agency, Sana, said the ambush of the police truck occurred on the Idlib-Ariha highway, an area near the Turkish border that has witnessed intense fighting with army defectors recently. Sana blamed the attack on "terrorists".

It said four bombs that went off in "two phases" hit the truck, and then attackers targeted an ambulance that arrived to assist the wounded. Six policemen who were accompanying the prisoners were also wounded, some of them in critical condition, it said.

The British-based opposition activist group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, confirmed the incident yesterday and said 15 prisoners were killed.

Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the group, said the truck was hit by several roadside bombs, but it was not clear who was behind the attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but members of the so-called Free Syrian Army are known to be active in the area. The Free Syrian Army is a group of army defectors, led by a Turkey-based defected colonel, who sided with the protesters and has carried out attacks on regime forces.

Abdul-Rahman and other activists in the country's northern Idlib province also reported heavy clashes between Syrian troops and defectors in the Jabal al-Zawiya region, along the Turkish border, and in the northern town of Maaret al-Numan.

He said nine members of the Syrian armed forces, including four officers, and a deserter were killed in the fighting in Maaret al-Numan. "Dozens" of people from both sides were wounded in the Jabal al-Zawiya fighting, and some of them were in serious condition.

The Local Co-ordination Committees activist network said five other people were killed in Syria yesterday, including three in the central city of Homs, one in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour and another in Douma, a suburb of the Syrian capital, where security forces fired on a funeral procession, wounding around 25 people.

The group also reported the discovery by residents of 30 unidentified bodies in Idlib's National Hospital yesterday. The report could not be independently confirmed.

Sunday Independent