At least 29 rebel combatants died Sunday when a car bomb exploded in the central part of the city of Homs, located 160 kilometers (about 100 miles) north of Damascus, Syrian opposition groups said.

The president of the Syrian Human Rights Observatory, Rami Abdulrahman, said that the blast took place in the Suq al Yay zone, which is located in the city's neighborhoods controlled by insurgents battling the forces of the Bashar al Assad regime.

Abdulrahman, who said that the dead belong to Islamist groups, added that the explosion occurred near a police station.

In addition, he said that the death toll is preliminary due to the fact that a large number of people are missing after the blast.

He did not say if the explosion was an attack on the rebels or if the bomb exploded by accident.

Meanwhile, the state-run Sana news agency said that the car bomb blew up while rebel combatants were preparing to stage an attack on government forces.

Sana also said, citing military sources, that at least 39 "terrorists," meaning rebels, were killed by regime troops on the outskirts of the Mediterranean coastal city of Latakia.

Several groups opposed to the Syrian regime are staging an military offensive in an attempt to advance into the coastal region.

Latakia, along with the coastal province of Tartus, is one of the regime's main bastions along the coast and is largely populated by the country's Alawite minority, the sect to which Assad belongs. EFE