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Islamic State Bombs Kill More Than 100 in Syrian Regime Strongholds

The Mediterranean cites of Jableh and Tartous, which hosts Russian forces, have until now escaped the worst of the conflict. Fighting has increased in Syria since peace talks collapsed.

by Reuters and VICE News
May 23 2016, 11:25am

The aftermath of a bombing at a bus station in Tartous. Photo via SANA/EPA

Bomb blasts killed more than 100 people in the Syrian coastal cities of Jableh and Tartous on Monday, monitors said, in a government-controlled area that also hosts Russian forces.

Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attacks in the Mediterranean cities that have up to now escaped the worst of the conflict, saying it was targeting supporters of President Bashar al-Assad. Packed bus stations and a hospital were among the targets, according to state media reported by the BBC.

Scores were wounded in at least five suicide attacks and two car bombs, the UK-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said — the first assaults of their kind in Tartous, where government ally Russia maintains a naval facility, and Jableh.

State media confirmed the attacks but gave a lower death toll.

Fighting has increased in other parts of Syria in recent weeks as world powers struggle to revive a threadbare ceasefire in western Syria and after peace talks in Geneva this year broke down.

State media reported that a car bomb and two suicide bombers attacked a petrol station in Tartous. In Jableh, one of the four blasts hit near a hospital, state media and the SOHR reported.

Related: Syrian Regime Blocks Aid Convoy and Shells Civilians Who Gathered to Receive It

Footage broadcast by the state-run al-Ikhbariya news channel of what it said were scenes of the blasts in Jableh showed several twisted and incinerated cars and minivans.

Pictures circulated by pro-Assad social media users showed dead bodies in the back of pick-up vans and charred body parts on the ground.

The SOHR said at least 53 people were killed in Jableh, and 48 in Tartous.

The interior ministry said in a statement more than 20 people had been killed, and one state media outlet put the death toll at 45 people.

Bombings in the capital Damascus and western city Homs earlier this year killed scores and were claimed by IS, which is fighting against government forces and their allies in some areas, and separately against its jihadist rival al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups.

Russia, which intervened in the Syrian war in support of Assad last September, operates an air base at Hmeymim in Latakia and a naval facility at Tartous — though it withdrew its aircraft in March saying it had mostly achieved its objectives.

Latakia city, which is the country's principle port and sits north of Jableh, is the capital of Assad's heartland province and has been targeted on a number of occasions by bombings and insurgent rocket attacks.

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Related: 'The Regime Can't Be Trusted': Inside Syria's Aleppo as a Shaky Truce Begins

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