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17 fighters killed in south Syria clashes — monitor

By AFP - Jul 27,2022 - Last updated at Jul 27,2022

BEIRUT — Seventeen gunmen were killed in two days of clashes in southern Syria's Sweida province between groups loyal to the Damascus regime and others opposing it, a war monitor said on Wednesday.

Ten loyalists and seven opposition fighters died in fighting on Tuesday and Wednesday in two villages in the Druze-majority province, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, raising the toll from 10 a day earlier.

The monitor said more than 40 were wounded, including civilians.

The Druze, who made up less than 3 per cent of Syria's pre-war population, have largely kept out of the country's civil war since it started in 2011.

Tensions had risen since Monday, after the abduction of two people close to the local armed opposition.

The clashes ended when opposition fighters surrounded the village headquarters of the pro-Damascus faction blamed for the kidnappings.

The pair were released, the observatory said.

Hundreds of Sweida residents gathered on Wednesday in a square to celebrate, footage broadcast by the local Suwayda24 news outlet showed.

Opposition fighters found “machines and presses for the manufacture of captagon pills” in one of the loyalist leader’s bases, the observatory and Suwayda24 said, referring to an amphetamine-type stimulant mainly produced in Syria.

Kidnappings and assassinations, carried out mostly by local gangs, are common in Sweida, where drug smuggling is rife, especially across the border with Jordan.

Government institutions and security forces are present in the province, while Syrian troops are deployed not far from its borders.

Sweida has been spared most of the civil war fighting, though local forces had to repel limited rebel attacks in 2013 and 2015.

A terrorist rampage in the area in 2018 killed more than 250 people.

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