AMMAN - A train carrying 400 passengers derailed on Saturday and its driver was killed when "saboteur groups" dismantled a section of a northern railway, Syrian officials said.

The incident occurred near the central city of Homs, which has witnessed a military crackdown on demonstrations against President Bashar Assad.

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Homs governor Hassan Abdelal said the train was carrying troops and civilians and that "destiny" helped to prevent further casualties.

"The saboteurs came by motorcycles. The train derailed near a high voltage power line and the driver was burnt to death. The saboteurs are bent on increasing operations and they must be confronted," Abdelaal told Syria's state television.

State television showed images of a burning and overturned train and a dismantled section of the track.

Syrian authorities have expelled most independent journalists from the country, making it difficult to verify witness accounts of events and official statements.


Two explosions were heard overnight from inside the Syrian Army War College in Homs. The sound of heavy gunfire was also heard and ambulances were seen heading to the compound in the old al-Waer district, two residents told Reuters by telephone.

Assad has been relying on the military, dominated by members of his own minority Alawite sect, to crush a four-month uprising against his autocratic rule.

Activists and diplomats say the repression has been triggering limited defections among the majority Sunni rank and file. The government says the protests are part of a violent conspiracy backed by foreign powers to sow sectarian strife.

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