Syrian government forces ambushed members of an al-Qaida-linked group on Friday, killing dozens of them near a historic Christian village north of Damascus, activists and state media said.

State TV said troops surprised fighters of the Jabhat al-Nusra or Nusra Front at dawn near Maaloula, which the group along with other rebels captured in late November for the second time this year. Maaloula had previously been firmly in the government’s grip despite being surrounded by rebel-held territory.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said that dozens of opposition fighters were killed, and that 20 were wounded. […]