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Assad’s Reelection Bid Greeted With Explosions and Mortar Fire

At least 51 people were killed in attacks on government-held areas of Homs and Damascus following Bashar al-Assad’s reelection registration.

by John Beck
Apr 29 2014, 7:45pm

Photo via AP

On Tuesday, just a day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad formally registered his candidacy for reelection, explosions in government-held areas of Homs killed at least 37 people. As Assad’s forces have recently consolidated their control over the city, local rebels have been making a final stand.

The strikes, which involved a car bomb, hit a predominantly Alawite neighborhood in the city's Zahra district. Over 116 people were injured according to SANA, the state news agency.

Footage from Syrian television shows the aftermath two large explosions in the city of Homs on April 29.

Casualty figures are still unconfirmed. A local official told Reuters that as many as 42 might have died, while the city’s governor told AFP that 45 were killed by the car bomb and a subsequent rocket attack.

The UK asks moms to stop their kids from running off to Syria. Read more here.

Also on Tuesday, mortar attacks in central Damascus killed at least 14 people and wounded dozens. A local police official told the AP that two shells struck close to a religious school, killing and injuring an unspecified number of students.

SANA blamed "terrorists" for the attack, although state sources use this as a catch-all term for anyone opposed to Assad's regime.

Assad's surprised no one when he announced on Monday that he would pursue another seven-year term in Syria's June 3 presidential election, despite a mass uprising against his rule that has lasted more than three years. He assumed office shortly after his father Hafez died in 2000.

Assad ran unopposed in 2007, but Syria’s parliament approved a law earlier this month allowing other candidates to run for president. Anyone who has lived outside of Syria during the last decade is barred from standing for office, ruling out exiled members of the opposition. SANA reported today that 11 presidential candidates have registered for this year’s election.

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Few observers expect a fair contest. It’s difficult to imagine how the country’s citizens can freely vote in the middle of a bloody civil war, with 6.5 million Syrians displaced within the country and 2.6 million having fled it entirely, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Sunday’s deadline for the Syrian government to surrender its chemical weapons stockpile passed with Assad’s regime still in possession of 8 percent of its declared weapons. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced today that it would launch a fact-finding mission to investigate the use of chlorine gas in Syria following alleged attacks earlier this month on rebel-controlled areas.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said this morning that the Syrian government continues to attack civilian targets in Aleppo with improvised “barrel bombs.” Since the UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding a halt to such attacks on February 22, Human Rights Watch has documented at least 85 strikes in areas of Aleppo held by rebels. It noted that two of these attacks targeted clearly marked hospitals.

A recent report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights says that barrel bombs killed 920 civilians between February 22 and April 16.

Follow John Beck on Twitter: @JM_Beck