BEIRUT - A blast that killed at least 16 people in the central Syrian city of Hama on Wednesday was the work of militants who botched a bomb-making attempt, the state news agency said on Thursday.

The statement, citing an unnamed government official, contradicts activist reports that security forces fired a rocket at the building in violation of the country's shaky truce, killing dozens of people, possibly as many as 68 according to some counts.

Hama, a hotbed of rebellion in the year-long revolt against Syrian President Bashar Assad's rule, is hosting two United Nations observers. They are preparing for a wider UN mission that will monitor a shaky ceasefire brokered by special envoy Kofi Annan.

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