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Published: Thursday, 6/12/2014

Car bomb kills at least 7 in central Syria


BEIRUT — A car bomb exploded in a pro-government neighborhood in the central Syrian city of Homs today, killing at least seven people, state media and activists said.

The Syrian government took full control of Homs last month after rebels withdrew from their strongholds in the Old City as part of a negotiated evacuation deal following a nearly two-year siege by the military. That agreement has largely restored a sense of calm and order to the city, although car bombs still occasionally target government areas.

Today‘‍s blast occurred in the Wadi Dahab district and killed at least seven people, the Syrian state news agency said. It added that some 25 others were wounded.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at eight. The activist group said six of the dead were civilians, but it was not clear whether the other two were civilians or pro-government gunmen.

Also today, the Observatory said the Syrian government has released around 530 detainees under a “general amnesty” announced Monday by President Bashar Assad following his re-election. Thousands more prisoners are expected to be released under the presidential pardon.

Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman said some of those who have been freed were detained under terrorism laws, while others had been imprisoned for standard criminal offenses. They have been released from prisons in Damascus, Aleppo, the southern city of Daraa as well as Deir el-Zour in the far east.

The government has issued several small-scale pardons since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011.

The latest amnesty appears to be the most sweeping. Still, it is not clear whether it applies to the tens of thousands of anti-government activists, protesters, opposition supporters and their relatives who international rights groups say are imprisoned in the country.

It does, however, cover foreign fighters, who the government says will not be prosecuted if they surrender.

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