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Syrian Security Forces Battle Rebels as Explosions Shake Capital

Syrian forces battled rebels on the outskirts of Damascus and several loud explosions shook the capital as more than 14 months of fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad showed no sign of abating.

Blasts could be heard since dawn today in Damascus and fighting erupted at a checkpoint on a bridge in the area of Kafr Sousa, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an e-mailed statement. The death toll yesterday was at least 18, it said. The Local Coordination Committees, an opposition group, reported 29 killed yesterday.

More than 9,000 people have been slain by Assad’s forces since March 2011, when protests began as part of the wave of uprisings in the Middle East, according to a United Nations estimate in late March. Violence continues almost two months after Assad and opposition forces accepted a peace plan by UN special envoy Kofi Annan.

Syria today denied a report by Al Jazeera television citing rebel leaders as saying that the Free Syrian Army killed senior government officials, including Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, Defense Minister Dawoud Rajiha and Interior Minister Mohammed al-Shaar. The claim was part of a “campaign of lies and slander,” the official Syrian Arab News Agency said, citing al-Shaar.

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