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Suicide bombers strike Syrian hotel

Three suicide bombers detonated their explosives belts in a hotel in a predominantly Kurdish town in northeastern Syria on Tuesday, killing three people, the state-run news agency said.

The hotel in the centre of Qamishli has functioned as a municipality building, according to a Kurdish official in the town, Joan Mohammed.

The area has been the scene of heavy battles recently between Kurdish gunmen and members of the al-Qaida breakaway group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Syria's state-run SANA news agency said three people died in the attack on the Hadaya Hotel. It didn't provide further details.

Mohammed, the Kurdish official, said there were multiple casualties in the attack but that he didn't have exact figures.

He said several suicide attackers tried to storm the heavily-fortified building and blew themselves up. One of them was captured before he could blow himself up and was being questioned, he added.

"The building is in the centre of the town and is usually very crowded," said Mohammad, adding that Kurdish fighters in the area were "on high alert" following the attack. He spoke to The Associated Press by phone from Qamishli.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion immediately fell on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Militants from the group have been fighting Kurdish gunmen for months in northern Syria in battles that left hundreds of people dead.

Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Syria, making up more than 10 per cent of the country's 23 million people.

Also on Tuesday, the Syrian government acknowledged it had freed women prisoners in exchange for 13 Greek Orthodox nuns who had been held by al-Qaida-linked rebels. But Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said the government freed only 25 prisoners and not the 150 reported by foreign mediators.

"The real number of those who were freed in exchange for the release of the nuns, who were kidnapped by armed terrorist gangs, is 25 persons," he told Syrian state TV.

 

The Canadian Press

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