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Dozens killed in Syria petrol station blast

An explosion at a petrol station in Syria has killed dozens of people. Activists said the blast was caused by government air strikes. Hours earlier rebels reportedly downed a helicopter jet near the capital, Damascus.

According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights at least 30 people were killed on Thursday when a fighter jet opened fire on a fuel station in the north-eastern village of Ain Issa in Raqa province

"At least 30 people were killed and 83 were injured, although unconfirmed sources say the number of dead was actually more than 50," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told news agency AFP.

"Lawyers and activists in the area say the blast was caused by aerial bombardment," the Britain-based watchdog added.

Unverified footage posted online, said to be from Raqa, showed black clouds of smoke rising from the wreckage of the petrol station as residents examined the scene.

The area had been the scene of fierce fighting on Thursday between government and rebel forces. It came a day after Syrian rebels seized the Tal al-Abyad border crossing between Raqa province and Turkey in heavy clashes with regime troops.

In a separate incident the Observatory reported that a military helicopter was downed by rebels following a series of blast in the restive town of Douma, northeast of the capital, Damascus.

Syrian state television offered a different explanation, however, saying the helicopter had crashed after an accident with a civilian aircraft. "This morning's helicopter crash resulted from an accident in the air when the helicopter's rotor clipped the tail of a Syrian Air plane carrying 200 passengers," it said.

Activists say at least 27,000 people have been killed in Syria since anti-regime protests erupted 18-months ago.

ccp/av (AFP, Reuters)