Car bomb kills at least 10 in central Syria
BEIRUT // A car bomb struck a pro-government neighborhood in the central Syrian city of Homs on Sunday, killing at least 10 people, while a series of suicide bombings in Idlib province were reported to have caused dozens of troop casulaties.
The blast in the Zahra district of Homs, which is predominantly inhabited by Alawites and Christians, was the deadliest of three bomb attacks in the shattered city, where rebels and the government have struck two ceasefire deals this month.
An official in Homs provincial governor’s office said 10 people were killed in the explosion and more than 40 were wounded.
The director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group, Rami Abdurrahman, put the death toll at 12.
Syrian state television blamed the bombing on “terrorists,” the term it uses to describe those fighting to oust the president, Bashar Al Assad.
Mr Abdurrahman said another explosion hit the Zahra area, although the nature of the blast was unclear.
A third blast struck the outskirts of Homs on the road heading west toward the city of Tartus on the Mediterranean coast, the provincial official and Mr Abdurrahman said. The official said at least 13 people were wounded in that blast.
Homs was one of the first cities to rise up against Mr Al Assad, and came to be known as the “capital of the revolution”. In a bitter setback early this month, rebels who had been besieged in the Old City reached an agreement with the government that granted them safe passage out of the city.
The rebels’ departure put all of Homs came under government control except a suburb known as Waer, which is home to tens of thousands of civilians. For around six months, Waer has been under a government blockade that has prevented food and fuel from entering.
On Friday, the opposition and government agreed to a ceasefire in Waer while they negotiate a broader agreement that would allow opposition fighters to safely leave the area.
In Syria’s north-west, Al Qaeda-affiliated rebels staged four suicide bomb attacks on army positions in the northern Sunday, leaving dozens of casualties, in a bid to cut off Idlib province from the coast.
“Four Al Nusra Front fighters carried out suicide attacks this morning, driving vehicles packed with explosives into four regime forces’ checkpoints in the Jabal Al Arbaeen area near Ariha city,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
It said dozens of troops were killed or wounded, without giving specific figures.
Fierce fighting broke out in the area, pitting troops backed by pro-regime militia against rebels and jihadists, the Observatory said.
The air force also struck the area, killing two rebels and wounding another 15, it added.
The army controls the cities of Idlib and Ariha in Idlib province, but much of the countryside is under rebel control.
Ariha lies on the road from Idlib to Latakia on the Mediterranean coast, the heartland of Mr Al Assad’s regime and his Alawite offshoot of Shiite Islam.
The rebels are “determined to cut off the road before the presidential vote” on June 3 that is to be contested only in regime-controlled areas, according to the Observatory.
* Associated Press and Agence France-Presse
Published: May 25, 2014 04:00 AM