Ten Syrians working in Lebanon were killed by an armed gang near the city of Homs as they were returning home to visit their families there, the state-run Syrian news agency SANA said Monday.

The agency said the attack happened late Sunday.

Syrian authorities have blamed armed gangs working for foreign governments for protests that started in mid-March against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A Syrian opposition figure speaking to the German Press Agency DPA in Beirut on the condition of anonymity cast doubt on the official version that an armed gang carried out the attack near Homs, where the army and security presence has been heavy since Saturday.

“Who would have the courage to fire at the bus when there are hundreds of Syrian troops positioned in every street in Homs?” he asked.

He said that during the night, the military cut electricity and communications before deploying on every street in several districts of the western city in preparation for what he described as an “arrest operation.” “The authorities are searching for hundreds of people they want to arrest in Homs,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Rights groups have said more than 600 people have been killed and 8,000 jailed or gone missing in the crackdown on protesters since March. The Committee of the Martyrs of the 15 March Revolution said its tally of the dead was 708.

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