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Government shelling kills 10 in rebel holdout in Syria

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government forces shelled a northwestern town held by al-Qaida-linked militants Tuesday, killing at least 10 people and wounding others, in the most intense bombardment of the area since a Russian-Turkish truce was brokered four months ago, opposition activists said.

Maaret al-Numan is in Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in the country. Government shelling has been intensifying since al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham wrested control of the area from rival rebel groups earlier this month.

The shelling is a further strain on the Sept. 17 truce, which averted a major government offensive on Idlib province.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group monitoring the war, said 11 people were killed, including a child and woman. It said others were wounded, with some in critical condition.

The Syrian Civil Defense, an opposition-linked group of first responders also known as the White Helmets, said the shelling killed 10 and wounded nine, adding that rockets struck residential neighborhoods in the town.

Earlier Tuesday, a woman wearing an explosive belt blew herself up outside a civil administration office run by HTS in the provincial capital, also called Idlib.

Opposition activists said the blast killed at least one person in addition to the attacker.

It was the latest in a series of attacks blamed on sleeper cells of the Islamic State group, a rival to the al-Qaida-linked group.

The Observatory and the HTS-linked Ibaa news agency reported that the attacker exchanged fire with guards before blowing herself up outside the building, after she failed to break through.

“Had she made it inside she would have inflicted much more casualties,” said the Observatory’s chief, Rami Abdurrahman.

The Local Coordination Committees, a network of opposition activists, said the blast killed two and wounded several others.

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