16 soldiers killed in Syrian suicide bombing
on 19/10/2013 10:09:27
The state news agency Sana confirmed a blast today in the suburb of Jaramana and said it caused casualties.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that rebels led by the al Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra or Nusra Front, carried out the attack while trying to capture the checkpoint in the town of Mleiha, overlooking Jaramana. It reported heavy fighting after the blast.
Rebels control much of the countryside around Damascus but Jaramana, a Christian and Druse area, is mostly loyal to president Bashar Assad.
Assad has drawn support from Syria's ethnic and religious minorities, including Christians and members of his Alawite sect. The rebels are dominated by Syria's Sunni Muslim majority.
Meanwhile, nine Shiite pilgrims from Lebanon kidnapped in Syria were freed late last night as part of a negotiated hostage deal that could see two Turkish pilots held by Lebanese militants released, officials said.
The complicated three-way deal also potentially includes the release of female prisoners now held by the embattled Syrian government.
While details about the deal remained murky, it appeared to represent one of the more ambitious negotiated settlements to come out of Syria's civil war, now entering its third year and being fought by forces tearing apart the region and largely opposed to any bartered peace.
The pilgrims were part of a group of 11 hostages taken by a rebel faction in northern Syria in May 2012. Two were later released, but the nine had been held since, causing friction in the region and sparking the August kidnapping in Beirut that saw two Turkish Airlines pilots abducted.