Fierce clashes between army troops and militants have raged in neighborhoods in and around the capital, Damarcus amid reports that fighting in a coastal province killed a top foreign fighter who was a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.
Heavy clashes and government air raids were reported in the Damascus suburb of Mliha, as well as the capital’s eastern Jobar neighborhood.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 10 rebels were killed in the Mliha clashes and three in Jobar, with the army reportedly sending reinforcements to push ahead with its offensive against the rebel-held areas.
It said army forces targeted militants in Mliha with a surface-to-surface rocket.
Syria’s state news agency said four mortar bombs fired by militants slammed into Harasta, northwest of Damascus, killing six children and wounding five more.
Another five people were wounded when a rebel mortar bomb struck the upscale central neighborhood of Maliki, the agency said.
The Observatory said mortar bombs also struck Ummayad Square, close to the state TV and radio stations, as well as the army command.
In the coastal campaign, Syrian troops killed a Moroccan militant once detained at the US military’s Guantanamo Bay prison, private Lebanese television station Al-Mayadeen and Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar said. The stations described him as the chief of the hardline Sham al-Islam Movement.
The stations said Brahim Benchakroun, better-known in Syria as Abu Ahmad al-Maghribi, was killed Wednesday while fighting government forces in northern rural Latakia, where rebels launched an offensive late last month, capturing several villages while also gaining their first access to the sea.
American authorities handed Benchakroun over to Morocco in 2005. He was captured in Afghanistan, where he had moved in 1999, according to Islamist websites.