Beirut: More than 148 people were killed yesterday in bombings claimed by the Islamic State group in northwestern Syria, the deadliest attacks yet in the regime’s coastal heartland.
People gather around a burning car at a spot where suicide bombers blew themselves up, in Tartus. Pic/AP
Seven near-simultaneous explosions targeted bus stations, hospitals and other civilian sites in the seaside cities of Jableh and Tartus, which until now had been relatively insulated from Syria’s five-year civil war.
The unprecedented attacks on strongholds of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime came as IS faces mounting pressure in both Syria and Iraq, where Baghdad’s forces on Monday launched a major offensive to retake the jihadist-held city of Fallujah.
A hundred people were killed in Jableh and another 48 in Tartus to the south, at least eight of them children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said they were “without a doubt the deadliest attacks” on the two cities since the start of the war. IS claimed the blasts, saying its fighters had attacked “Alawite gatherings” referring to the minority sect from which Assad hails.
IS is not known to have a presence in Syria’s coastal provinces, where its rival and Al-Qaeda’s local branch Al-Nusra Front is more prominent. But IS is notorious for using deadly sleeper cells to attack its enemies. “I’m shocked, this is the first time I hear sounds like this,” said Mohsen Zayyoud, a student in Jableh.