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Suicide car bomber kills 50 soldiers, Syrian opposition says

Another day of relentless violence in Syria coincided with more unity talks in Qatar among opposition factions.

By Mariam Karouny and Tom PerryReuters / November 5, 2012

Beirut, Lebanon

An Islamist suicide car bomber killed at least 50 Syrian security men in Hama province on Monday, an opposition group said, in what would be one of the bloodiest single attacks on President Bashar al-Assad's forces in a 20-month-old uprising.

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Another day of relentless violence in Syria coincided with more unity talks in Qatar among fractious opposition factions.

Syrian state media reported that a suicide bomber had targeted a rural development center in Sahl al-Ghab in Hama province, but put the death toll at two.

Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the center was used by security forces and pro-Assad militia as one of their biggest bases in the area.

"A fighter from the Nusra Front blew himself up," he said. "He drove his car to the center and then blew himself up. A series of explosions followed. At least 50 were killed."

The Nusra Front, an al Qaeda-inspired group of ultra-orthodox Salafi Muslims, has claimed responsibility for several suicide bombings in Damascus and elsewhere in the past. It operates mostly independently of other rebel factions, some of which have criticized it for indiscriminate tactics.

The state news agency SANA said: "A terrorist blew himself up in the center which resulted in a number of casualties. Two citizens were killed and a number of them were wounded."

Syrian officials often blame foreign-backed Islamist militants for the anti-Assad revolt, in which about 32,000 people have been killed.

Warplanes, tanks and artillery battered rebel-held parts of southern Damascus in what one Western diplomat said was a major escalation in Assad's campaign to crush rebels. Opposition activists said at least 10 people were killed there.

Opposition talks

An air strike on Haram, a town in the northwestern province of Idlib near the Turkish border, killed at least 20 rebels of the Idlib Martyrs' Brigade, probably including their commander, Basil Eissa, the Syrian Observatory said.

Much of Idlib province is in the hands of insurgents, but remains vulnerable to air power, used increasingly by Mr. Assad's forces to contain his mostly Sunni Muslim opponents.

In Qatar, divided Syrian opposition groups were meeting to try to forge a cohesive leadership that would then make common cause with rebel factions fighting on the ground, in an effort to gain wider international recognition and arms supplies.

The Syrian National Council (SNC), the largest overseas-based opposition group, was expected to expand its membership to 400 from 300 and to elect a new leader and executive committee before talks with other anti-Assad factions in Doha this week.

Discussions focused on a proposal by influential opposition figure Riad Seif for a new structure combining the rebel Free Syrian Army, regional military councils and other insurgent units with local civilian bodies and prominent individuals.

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