BEIRUT (AFP) – Roadside bombs targeting a convoy of minibuses in Syria's Homs province killed nine people on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
"Several explosive devices detonated as a convoy of minibuses drove past and nine passengers of one of the buses were killed," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.
He said the blasts occurred near the village of Jabburin, on the road linking Homs city to a string of villages populated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.
Immediately after the explosions, clashes erupted in Jabburin, pitting rebels against pro-regime militiamen.
At least five members of the pro-regime Popular Committees and an unconfirmed number of rebels were killed in the fighting.
State news agency SANA confirmed the report, and accused "terrorists", the regime's term for rebels, of the attack.
"Terrorists detonated an explosive device as a bus drove on the Homs-Mesyaf road. This led to the killing of nine civilians," said a military source cited by SANA.
Meanwhile, troops loyal to Assad pounded the rebel-held town of Houla in the northwest of Homs province, killing two children and injuring several other people.
At the same time, warplanes struck several villages in the west of Homs, said the Observatory.
Home to sizeable Christian and Alawite minorities, Homs has seen some of Syria's worst sectarian tensions in the 30-month conflict.