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Blast in Syria's Hama kills many


An explosion has destroyed a building in Syria's central city of Hama, reportedly killing up to 69 people, many of them children.

The opposition Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC) said security forces fired a rocket at the building in the Mashaa Attayar area on Wednesday. The Syrian state news agency reported that the explosion was caused by anti-government bomb-makers who had mishandled explosives.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based rights group, said that it was not sure what had caused the explosion, and it asked UN monitors in the area to investigate.

The group had initially cited witnesses as saying the explosion was caused by government shelling. On Thursday, it reported that 16 people had been killed in the explosion.

Hama, a hotbed of revolt in the year-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule, has a small team of UN observers, who are preparing the way for a larger UN mission which will monitor the peace plan negotiated by the UN-Arab League envoy, Kofi Annan, two weeks ago.

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