Syrian troops kill rebels in offensive

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BEIRUT — Government forces stormed a rebel-held town outside Damascus on Tuesday after days of fierce fighting, killing dozens of people including at least 23 rebels, according to activist groups and a rebel spokesman.

The Local Coordination Committees activist group and a rebel spokesman said regime troops entered the opposition-held town of Moadamiyeh at dawn from four points, raiding homes in search of fighters trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad.

The rebel spokesman, who asked to be identified only as Ahmed, said three men in their late 20s and early 30s were fatally shot execution style in the town soon after it fell to regime forces.

He also said 23 fighters from the Free Syrian Army rebel group were killed when government forces stormed the town.

Later, activists said dozens of bodies were found dumped in a building’s shelter in the town. They said they appear to have been killed execution style.

Moadamiyeh, west of the capital Damascus, had been under siege for more than two weeks. Its capture followed days of intense fighting and shelling by government troops.

Damascus and its suburbs have witnessed a dramatic spike in fighting over the past month. Government forces were further stretched when a major battle for control of the northern city of Aleppo erupted around the end of July. Before that, the fighting had been concentrated outside the big cities during the 18-month-old uprising.

In Aleppo, a Japanese TV reporter was killed Monday while covering the fighting. She was the first foreign journalist to die in Aleppo since fighting broke out.

Japan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed overnight that veteran Japanese war correspondent Mika Yamamoto was killed in Aleppo. She worked for the Japan Press, an independent TV news service that specializes in conflict-zone coverage.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Masaru Sato said the 45-year-old reporter was hit by gunfire while she and a colleague were traveling with rebels.

Ms. Yamamoto had covered the war in Afghanistan after 2001 and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq from Baghdad as a special correspondent for NTV, according to the Japan Press website.

She was the fifth foreign journalist to be killed in Syria since the start of the war, the media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders said. A sixth journalist died from a severe asthma attack during an undercover reporting trip.

Two other journalists were said to have been captured by Syrian government forces in Aleppo, including Al-Hurra TV correspondent Bashar Fahmi and his cameraman Cuneyt Unal.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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