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Scores of Syrian fighters killed in army ambush near Damascus

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[February 26, 2014]  BEIRUT (Reuters) - Scores of Islamist fighters were killed in an army ambush in the Eastern Ghouta area of the Syrian capital Damascus, the national news agency SANA said on Wednesday.

Lebanon's Al Manar television said the attack was near the town of Otaiba and that the death toll may have been higher than 170.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, said at least 70 fighters had been killed but the number could be much higher.

The Britain-based Observatory, which has a network of sources across Syria, said fighters from the Shi'ite group Hezbollah carried out the ambush in cooperation with Syrian government forces.

"Hezbollah was the main group that implemented the ambush," Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Observatory, told Reuters.

Hezbollah has sent fighters to support the Syrian leader, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. Sunni militants from Lebanon, Iraq and other countries have also entered Syria to fight on behalf of the largely Sunni rebellion.

(Reporting By Stephen Kalin and Dominic Evans; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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