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Syria: Ambush of government forces in south kills dozens, says monitor

At least 21 Syrian soldiers were killed in an attack by unknown gunmen in Daraa, according to Observatory
A Syrian man rides a motorcycle while carrying a gas cylinder as he drives past the Omari mosque in the southern Syrian city of Daraa on 2 October 2018 (AFP)

A military convoy came under an ambush in Syria's southern province of Daraa on Tuesday, in which 21 Syrian soldiers were killed, forcing the Syrian army to send reinforcement to the area, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

"Members of the Fourth Armoured Division and the regime's intelligence units were killed in an ambush by militants," the Observatory said. 

State news agency SANA reported a "terrorist attack" on a military bus in Daraa, but did not give details of the number of soldiers killed.

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The soldiers were en route to the al-Mzairib district in the rural west of the province to arrest a former opposition commander when they came under fire by militants loyal to him, seeking to thwart his capture, Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman said.

"The militants attacked two military trucks and two small buses carrying regime forces," he added.

The ambush sparked a gunfight that forced Damascus to deploy reinforcements to the area, Abdul Rahman said.

Russian-backed government fighters recaptured Daraa from rebels in 2018, in a symbolic blow to the anti-government uprising born there in 2011.

State institutions have since returned, but the army is still not deployed across the whole province, the Observatory says.

Many former rebels stayed instead of evacuating under a Moscow-brokered deal, either joining the army or remaining in control of parts of the province. They were allowed to keep their light firearms.

Al-Mzairib is among the districts controlled by former opposition forces.

Since it came under government control, Daraa has witnessed a spate of bombings and assassinations targeting government forces, former opposition figures and civilians. Most of them remain unclaimed.

Syria's war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions since it started with anti-government protests in 2011.