Videos and images posted by opposition supporters online showed a
massive plume of smoke and earth shooting into the air near a small
town as men shouted "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest).
Rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad regularly
carry out guerrilla attacks against his forces, but the size of the
blast, which occurred on Monday, was unusual.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring
group, said the blast took place outside the town of Ma'arat
al-Nu'man in the northwestern Idlib province.
At least two officers were among those killed when insurgents from
the Islamic Front and the Shields of the Revolution Council set off
tons of explosives in a tunnel running from the road to the
checkpoint, the group said.
More than 150,000 people have been killed in the three-year-old
rebellion, which started as a peaceful protest movement and turned
into a civil war after a government crackdown.
International powers have been deadlocked over how to resolve the
conflict, further complicated by infighting between rebel groups
that has killed thousands of fighters this year.
On Monday about 70 rebels were killed in clashes between a former al
Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and al
Qaeda's Syrian branch, the Nusra Front, and its allies in an eastern
province bordering Iraq, the Observatory said.
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The fighting, which has intensified in the last few weeks, centers
around villages on the outskirts of the city of Deir al-Zor, capital
of the oil-producing province of the same name, where rebel groups
have been fighting each other for control of oilfields and strategic
The latest clashes has displaced tens of thousands of people in the
area over the last few days, the Observatory said. Five civilians
were killed in Monday's fighting, which resulted in the Nusra Front
and its allies taking control of the village of al-Sabha, it said.
(Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Louise Ireland)
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