String of bomb blasts hit Syria, 23 killed

A string of bomb attacks hit across mostly government-controlled areas of Syria on Monday, killing at least 23 people and wounding dozens more, state media said.

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The blasts hit government-held Tartus and Homs, as well as Hasakeh, which is mostly controlled by Kurdish forces but where the regime maintains a presence.

State media said at least 11 people had been killed and 45 injured in a double bomb attack just outside the city of Tartus, in the coastal province of the same name, which is a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

“Two terrorist blasts on Arzuna bridge, the first a car bomb and the second a suicide bomber who detonated his explosive belt when people gathered to help the wounded,” state television said.

Tartus has been largely spared the worst violence of Syria’s conflict since it began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

It has become a refuge for many Syrians fleeing violence that has displaced over half the country’s population.

State media also reported eight people killed in a bombing in Hasakeh, in the northeast of the country.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said the blast hit a checkpoint belonging to the Kurdish Asayesh security forces.

Hasakeh city has been regularly targeted by the Islamic State group, including in July, when a motorcycle bomber killed at least 16 people outside a bakery in the city.

Monday’s bombings came after advances by Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels expelled IS from the last stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border under their control.

The jihadist group has been losing ground to both an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces and, more recently, a Turkish offensive involving rebels loyal to Ankara.

– ‘Simultaneous’ attacks –

In central Homs city, state media said at least three people were killed in a car bomb at the entrance to the Al-Zahraa neighbourhood, whose residents mostly belong to the same Alawite sect as Assad.

Al-Zahraa has also been regularly targeted in bomb attacks, including a devastating double bomb blast in February that killed 57 people and was claimed by IS.

State television broadcast images from the aftermath of the blast in Homs, showing rubble strewn on the streets and smoke rising from the charred remains of vehicles.

Another bomb attack was also reported on the Al-Sabura road west of the capital Damascus, with state media saying one person had been killed and three injured in that bombing.

The Observatory said that attack targeted a checkpoint and gave a toll of three dead.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said the blasts appeared to be coordinated.

“Clearly these attacks were simultaneous and they all targeted security posts,” he told AFP.

More than 290,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011, and millions displaced by the fighting.

Successive rounds of international negotiations aimed at find a political solution have failed to bear fruit, though US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov are due to resume discussions on stemming the violence Monday.