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Clashes erupt in Syria's Assad home province

Fighting erupts between rebels and government loyalists in Assad's home province near Turkish border.

Last updated: 22 Mar 2014 21:27
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Latakia province has remained relatively insulated from three years of fighting [Al Jazeera]

Fighting has raged between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's northern Latakia province, a day after 34 people were killed as rebel fighters sought to seize a border crossing into Turkey, an NGO said.

The fighting has prompted Assad's government to complain to the United Nations that Turkey was providing cover to rebels crossing the border from its territory, the AFP news agency reported.

Latakia province, which includes Assad's family village, is considered a government stronghold and many of its residents are from his Alawite minority.

Large parts of Latakia have remained relatively insulated from three years of fighting in Syria, but the province was shaken on Friday as three rebel groups battled to seize the Kasab border crossing.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad monitoring group, said the fighters included the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front, who were also active in Saturday's clashes against regular troops and pro-government militia.

There were no immediate reports on casualties, but the Observatory said at least 34 people were killed on Friday, including 13 rebels and five civilians.

Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the UK-based Observatory, said fighting was underway in three government-controlled villages and another three that loyalists were trying to seize from rebels.

State-run news agency SANA said loyalists had destroyed an ammunition and rocket depot, as well as vehicles transporting weapons in numerous operations in the north of the province.

A security source said the army on Friday had retaken two police stations that had been captured by rebels from Turkey.

The source said Damascus had sent a message to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accusing Ankara of providing cover for the rebels and demanded that the Security Council denounce what the Syrian government called a terrorist attack on Syrian territory.

Friday's clashes came after al-Nusra, Sham al-Islam and Ansar al-Sham announced the beginning of the "Anfal" campaign in the Latakia area.

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