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Mortar attack on Assad gathering in Syria kills 21

By The Associated Press

This article was published May 23, 2014 at 11:02 a.m.

in-this-photo-released-by-the-syrian-official-news-agency-sana-backers-of-syrian-president-bashar-assad-hold-his-portraits-and-wave-syrian-flags-during-a-demonstration-in-support-of-his-candidacy-for-presidential-elections-in-damascus-syria-on-friday-may-23-2014-a-mortar-shell-struck-a-large-tent-where-supporters-of-assad-had-gathered-for-election-campaigning-in-southern-syria-tens-of-people-were-killed-and-wounded-opposition-activists-said-friday

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad hold his portraits and wave Syrian flags during a demonstration in support of his candidacy for presidential elections in Damascus, Syria, on Friday, May 23, 2014. A mortar shell struck a large tent where supporters of Assad had gathered for election campaigning in southern Syria, tens of people were killed and wounded, opposition activists said Friday.

BEIRUT — A mortar shell struck a large tent in southern Syria where supporters of President Bashar Assad had gathered for election campaigning, killing at least 21 people and wounding scores, opposition activists said Friday.

State media reported the mortar attack late Thursday, saying it killed and wounded an unspecified number of civilians inside the tent.

Assad, rarely seen in public since the start of Syria's 3-year-old conflict, has not been seen campaigning since he declared his candidacy last month and he was not at the gathering in the southern city of Daraa, where the uprising against his rule began in March 2011.

More than 160,000 people have been killed in the fighting as the revolt morphed into a civil war that has also sent millions fleeing for their lives and turned once-prosperous cities into rubble-strewn war zones.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in Daraa. Rebels trying to overthrow Assad frequently fire mortar shells into Syria's major cities, including the capital, Damascus, from opposition-held suburbs.

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