Syrian troops killed 21 people during search operations in the flashpoint central city of Homs on Monday, a human rights group said.

“Twenty-one people, some civilians and others police officers, were killed in Homs on Monday during operations by the army and the security services in several neighbourhoods of the city,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Troops shot dead two other civilians, one in Idlib province in the northwest and the other a 13-year-old boy in Hama, a protest centre north of Homs, the Britain-based watchdog said.

Seven soldiers were also killed in clashes with gunmen suspected of being army defectors in Homs province, the Observatory reported earlier. It added that 20 soldiers fled into nearby orchards after those exchanges.

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