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ISIS bombs kill 148 in 2 Syrian cities

REUTERS | JOHN DAVISON
Published : May 24, 2016, 4:25 am IST
Updated : May 24, 2016, 4:25 am IST

Bomb blasts killed scores of people in Jableh and Tartous on Syria’s Mediterranean coast on Monday and wounded many others in the government-controlled territory that hosts Russian military bases, mon

Syrians inspect damage after a bomb attack at a bus station, in the coastal town of Tartous. (Photo: AP)
 Syrians inspect damage after a bomb attack at a bus station, in the coastal town of Tartous. (Photo: AP)

Bomb blasts killed scores of people in Jableh and Tartous on Syria’s Mediterranean coast on Monday and wounded many others in the government-controlled territory that hosts Russian military bases, monitors and state media said.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks in the cities that have up to now escaped the worst of the violence in the five-year-old conflict, saying it was targeting members of President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite minority.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 148 people were killed in attacks by at least five suicide bombers and two devices planted in cars. State media said 78 people had been killed in what is Mr Assad’s coastal heartland.

The attacks were the first of their kind in Tartous, capital of Tartous province and home to a Russian naval facility, and Jableh in Latakia province, near a Russian-operated air base.

The Kremlin said the bomb blasts underscored the need to press ahead with Geneva peace talks after a February 27 ceasefire collapsed in April as violence intensified in a war that has killed at least 250,000 people.

“This demonstrates yet again just how fragile the situation in Syria is. And this one more time underscores the need for new urgent steps to continue the negotiating process,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with journalists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated his readiness to fight with the Syrian government against “the terrorist threat” sent his condolences to Mr Assad, the Kremlin said.

One of the four blasts in Jableh hit near a hospital and another at a bus station. The Tartous bombs also targeted a bus station, the Observatory and state media reported.

Younes Hassan, a doctor working at the Jableh hospital, said he heard an explosion at the bus station, followed less than a minute later by the blast at the hospital.

“Everything went into emergency mode, wounded people began arriving,” he told Reuters by phone.

The Tartous explosions also occurred in quick succession, no more than 10 seconds apart, a driver at the bus station said.

“People began running but didn’t know which direction to go, cars were on fire, there was blood and bodies on the ground,” Nizar Hamade said.

Footage broadcast by the state-run Ikhbariya news channel showed several twisted and burnt-out cars and minivans.

Islamic State claimed the attacks in a statement posted online by the group’s Amaq news agency, saying its fighters had targeted “gatherings of Alawites”.

Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said in an interview with Ikhbariya that terrorists were resorting to bomb attacks against civilians instead of fighting on the front lines, and vowed to keep battling them.

Location: Lebanon, Beirut