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Syria’s uprising started in March 2011 with mostly peaceful protests inspired by successful revolts elsewhere calling for political reform. The Syrian government responded with a brutal crackdown, prompting many in the opposition to take up arms to defend themselves and attack government troops.

The U.N. said weeks ago that more than 9,000 people have been killed. Hundreds more have died since.

Overall violence as dropped as the observer mission has grown, though daily attacks continue.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime troops shelled and raided villages in the central provinces of Hama and Homs on Saturday as well as in Idlib in the north, killing at least three people.

The group, which relies on activists in Syria, also said rebels and regime forces were clashing outside of Damascus and in Idlib province, where an attack on a military convoy killed four soldiers.

Syria’s state news agency said “armed terrorists” opened fire on an army colonel and his brother early Saturday as they drove to work outside of Damascus, killing one of them. A lieutenant general was shot dead in another suburb outside of his house, it said.

The claims could not be independently verified.

Also on Saturday, Turkey said two Turkish journalists who were detained in Syria were on their way home.

Turkey’s Anadolu agency said a plane carried Adem Ozkose and Hamit Coskun on Saturday to Iran, where a Turkish plane will return them to Turkey.

The pair were reported missing in early March, and were not heard from until last weekend when they made brief telephone calls to their families from detention in Damascus. Iran mediated between Turkey and Syria to release the journalists.

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Associated Press writer Albert Aji contributed reporting from Damascus, Syria.