Activists: 24 killed in clashes in central Syria

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BEIRUT (AP) -- Syrian opposition groups say government shelling and firefights between troops and army defectors have killed at least 24 in a village in central Syria.

The Local Coordination Committees activist network said the violence took place Saturday in the village of al-Latamneh in the suburbs of the restive city of Hama.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the number of deaths at 27. It said most were killed by shells fired as troops tried to storm al-Latamneh following clashes with defectors there over the past two days.

Syrian forces have launched offensives across the country as a cease-fire deadline brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan nears.