Syrian security forces killed at least eight civilians on Sunday in intensifying raids into restive northwestern towns, local residents and activists said, while state authorities blamed armed gangs for a bus ambush that killed nine people.
The civilian deaths were reported in rural Hama and the adjacent province of Idlib, both areas that have seen intensified raids and arrests of people involved in popular unrest since last week's defection of Hama's attorney general.
Activists said the authorities suspected he was in hiding in the countryside around Hama.
The official news agency SANA said six military personnel and three civilian employees were killed and 17 injured when their military bus was ambushed by an "armed terrorist group" the near the town of Mhardeh in rural Hama. The agency said three of the gunmen were killed during a chase.
Syrian authorities have expelled most foreign media, making it difficult to verify events in the country.