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Syrian State Media Says Seven Soldiers Killed In Ambush

Syrian state media says that seven soldiers were killed in an ambush as they rode in a bus near Damascus today.

The official SANA news agency said the attack was carried out by a "terrorist group," the phrase Damascus uses to describe insurgents.

The attack comes as insurgent groups composed of deserters from the Syrian Army have joined the antigovernment protest movement and begun striking back at government troops in response to violent crackdowns.

Separately, Syrian acitivist say security forces killed 11 people near Damascus today.

Earlier, insurgents said they are holding seven Iranians hostage and will not release them until the government frees a rebel army officer and stops military operations in Homs, a center of revolt in Syria's 10-month-old uprising.

A video released by the Farouq Battalion, part of the loosely organized rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), shows the seven Iranians, unshaven and wearing black shirts.

It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the video, but the men's faces match those in pictures posted on Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency website.

Iran, a non-Arab Shi'ite Muslim power, is the closest regional ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose minority Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

The deputy chief of the FSA, Malek al-Kurdi, said the Iranians were arrested in Homs and that five are military experts from Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Rebels who spoke to Reuters via Skype said the two other men taken in a second abduction were civilians.

Iran's Mehr news agency said all seven men were engineers working at a power plant in Homs.

Compiled from agency reports

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