Syrian anti-Assad protest 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BEIRUT - Bomb blasts killed 14 prisoners traveling in a security vehicle in northwest Syria on Saturday, the state news agency said, and troops fought rebels elsewhere as the Arab League weighed whether to keep monitors in place.
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Syria's SANA agency said a "terrorist" group had set off two explosions that also wounded 26 prisoners, as well as six police guards. It said the assailants had also attacked ambulances sent to the scene, on the road between the towns of Idlib and Ariha.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the 10-month-old revolt against President Bashar Assad, had earlier reported the attack in northwestern Idlib province.
It said army troops were clashing with soldiers who have deserted and joined an anti-Assad insurgency in the Jebel al-Zawiya region of Idlib, which is near the Turkish border.
Al Jazeera television said army troops and deserters were also battling in the northwestern city of Jisr al-Shughour.
The Arab League looks set to extend its monitoring mission in Syria, given the lack of any Arab or world consensus on how to halt bloodshed there, an Arab diplomatic source said.
Sudanese General Mohammed al-Dabi, head of the 165-strong monitoring team, was due in Cairo on Saturday to submit his report for a League committee on Syria to consider the next day.
Hundreds of people were killed during the month-long observer mission, despatched to assess Syria's implementation of an Arab peace plan originally agreed in early November.
"Yes, there is not complete satisfaction with Syria's cooperation with
the monitoring mission," the Arab source said. "But in the absence of
any international plan to deal with Syria, the best option is for the
monitors to stay."
Syria, keen to avoid tougher action by the Arab League or by the United
Nations, has tried to show it is complying with the plan, which demanded
a halt to killings, a military pullout from the streets, the release of
detainees, access for the monitors and the media, and a political
dialogue with opposition groups.