Bomb near Syrian capital kills 16

Syrian activists say a suicide vehicle bombing of an army checkpoint outside Damascus has killed 16 soldiers. The state news agency SANA confirmed a blast Saturday in the suburb of Jaramana and said it caused casualties.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that rebels led by the Al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat Al-Nusra or Nusra Front, carried out the attack while trying to capture the checkpoint in the town of Mleiha, overlooking Jaramana. It reported heavy fighting after the blast.

Rebels control much of the countryside around Damascus but Jaramana, a Christian and Druse area, is mostly loyal to President Bashar Assad.

Assad has drawn support from Syria’s ethnic and religious minorities, including Christians and members of his Alawite sect.

The rebels are dominated by Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority.