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Lebanon stops ship with Syria-bound weapons

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Ship originally from Libya and loaded with arms reportedly destined for Syrian oppositionThe Lebanese navy has reportedly intercepted a ship loaded with three containers of weapons destined for Syrian opposition forces.

The cargo vessel, which originated from Libya, was found on Saturday containing heavy machine guns, artillery shells, rockets, rocket launchers and other explosives, a security official said.

Military prosecutor Saqr Saqr said an investigation was under way, adding that the 11 crew members were being questioned by Lebanese military police.

Another security official said the Sierre Leone-flagged Lutfallah II, was bound for members of the Free Syrian Army, an umbrella group of fighters trying to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president.

The ship's officers had previously obtained a permit to enter the port of Tripoli in northern Lebanon before being stopped by the navy on Thursday night.

The ship was towed to Selaata, a small port some 50km north of Beirut, Lebanon's capital, on Saturday. Three army trucks had reportedly left Selaata for Beirut with the seized cache of weapons, escorted by eight jeeps and a helicopter.

Syrian authorities have repeatedly charged that weapons are being smuggled from Lebanon to rebels fighting to overthrow Assad.

Sea battle

Also on Saturday, state media said gunmen in inflatable boats attacked a military unit on Syria's Mediterranean coast..

The official SANA news agency said several fighters and soldiers died in the battle that followed the coastal attack
near the northern port of Latakia, 35km south of the Turkish border.

"The fighting ... resulted in the death and wounding of a number of military personnel while the number of those killed from the terrorist group was not known because they attacked the military unit at night," SANA said.

Meanwhile, a veteran Norwegian peacekeeper was on his way to Damascus to take charge of a UN mission overseeing the country's shaky ceasefire.

Major-General Robert Mood takes over a mission that faces major obstacles and doubts before the full 300-member force approved by the UN Security Council has even gathered.

Mood himself has highlighted the "abyss of suspicion" between Assad and the opposition. The uprising against Assad's rule has killed more than 9,000 people since March last year, according to UN figures.

'Suicide bombing'

A suicide bomber killed nine people and injured dozens of others in Damascus on Friday, according to state media.

The SANA news agency said the victims of the blast in al-Midan district included civilians and law-enforcement personnel.

Opposition activists said the explosion struck opposite the Zain al-Abideen mosque, which was under heavy security for Friday prayers, and where regular protests against Assad erupt.

The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), an opposition activist network, reported the deaths of 18 people, including three children, on Friday amid anti-government protests across the country.

The group said five of those killed were in Homs, three in Idlib, two in Aleppo, two in Deir al-Zor, two in Damascus, two in the Damascus suburbs, one in Deraa and one in Hama.

"The figure does not include the victims of the terrorist bombing carried out by the regime in Damascus' Midan," it said in a statement.

As violence continued across the country despite the peace deal, the EU said that it was "extremely concerned" about the persistent bloodshed.

It called on Syria to end its "violations" of the ceasefire, which was negotiated by Kofi Annan, the former UN chief.

"I am extremely concerned about the continued violence in Syria in violation of the ceasefire which should have come into effect on 12 April and despite the presence on the ground of UN observers," Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, said on Friday.

Ashton said it was "clear that the Syrian government is not fulfilling its obligations and is failing to meet its commitments to withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from population centres".

She said the Syrian government "must ensure that the ceasefire holds".

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