REPORTING FROM BEIRUT-- In the latest violence in Syria, more than a dozen people were killed Saturday when a bus carrying prisoners in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib exploded, activist reports and government-controlled media said.
Syria's official SANA news agency said 14 people were killed and 26 others wounded when "an armed terrorist group" attacked a police truck with a string of explosives as it was traveling in the Mastouma area between the towns of Ariha and Idlib.Six police guards accompanying the transport were also wounded, the report added.
The Syrian activist network, the Local Coordination Committees in Syria, said 13 people died "when a bus carrying prisoners exploded." It did not elaborate.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The activist network also reported the discovery of 30 unidentified corpses in Idlib's National Hospital. Security forces opened fire inside and outside the hospital, the group said, as activists and residents found the bodies. A mass arrest campaign was underway in the area, the report added.
In addition, six other people were killed across the country Saturday, the activist group said, including three in the protest stronghold of Homs and one in the Damascus suburb of Duma, where security forces reportedly fired on mourners near a mosque and clashes erupted between members of the rebel group the Free Syrian Army and government troops.
As fighting raged, the U.S was looking into reports about the arrest of an American citizen in Syria earlier this month. Media reports say Abdelkader Chaar, 22, from Syracuse, N.Y., was arrested Jan. 8 in the northern city of Aleppo, where he is a medical student at Aleppo University.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a Friday news briefing that the U.S was looking into the matter.
"We are aware of the reports," she said. "We’ve been in contact with Syrian authorities and have requested confirmation of the arrest and requested consular access. We have not yet had a response to those requests."
Reports have also surfaced about the U.S. contemplating closing its embassy in Syria, reportedly citing concerns for its embassy staff there due to a deteriorating security situation.
-- Alexandra Sandels
Photo: Images released by Syrian news agency SANA show a vehicle allegedly destroyed by explosive devices near Idlib on Saturday. Credit: EPA/SANA