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Apr 19, 4:45 AM EDT

Car bomber kills 6 at Syrian government checkpoint


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DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- A suicide bomber in a car blew himself up at a checkpoint near a government-controlled town in central Syria early Saturday, killing at least six soldiers, activists said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said the bombing near Salamiya left an unknown number of civilian casualties.

The Observatory obtains its information from a network of activists on the ground.

A Syrian government official confirmed the bombing but said four people were killed and nine were wounded. Conflicting death tolls are routine after such attacks. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

The bombing at the entrance of the town comes in the midst of fierce fighting in the central province of Hama.

Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar Assad have been clashing with rebels in the nearby town of Morek, and military helicopters have been dropping crude, explosive-filled barrels over the town of Kafr Zeita, some 40 miles away.

Two activists and a medic in Kafr Zeita told The Associated Press this week that at least three of the crude "barrel bombs" that fell on their town in April contained canisters of chlorine gas that have caused residents to choke and faint.

The Syrian government accuses rebels of using the canisters, which are readily available and can be used easily.

Car bombings are a prized tactic of Syrian rebels, particularly those belonging to hard-line Sunni groups.

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Hadid reported from Beirut.

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