Conflict & Justice

Car bomb kills at least 31 in central Syrian city of Hama

A car bomb exploded on the edge of the central Syrian city of Hama early Sunday, killing at least 31 people.

According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the explosion appeared to target a government checkpoint on a highway close to the city.

"A violent explosion shook the Sinaa highway in Hama city moments ago, followed by intense gunfire," the Observatory said.

"According to initial reports, the blast targeted a checkpoint manned by regime troops near an agricultural vehicle company, and ambulances could be seen in the area."

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State TV reported, however, that "a terrorist car bomb explosion went off near an agricultural vehicle company on the edge of Hama city. Several people were killed or wounded."

It showed images of firemen trying to put out fires as black clouds of smoke rose from charred vehicles in the vicinity.

Hama saw some of the largest demonstrations against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the first few month after the country's uprising began in March 2011, but security forces stormed the city shortly thereafter and have kept control ever since.

Meanwhile, Arab League chief Nabil el-Arabi also announced on Sunday that peace talks meant to put an end to the Syrian conflict would begin on Nov. 23 in Geneva.

"I discussed the Syria file with Lakhdar Brahimi and it was decided that the Geneva meeting would take place on Nov. 23 and arrangements are being made to prepare for this conference," el-Arabi told reporters in Cairo after a meeting with Brahimi, the international envoy for Syria.

Brahimi said, however, that a "date has not been officially set."