IS blasts in Syria regime heartland kill more than 120

Syria ISIS bombing 23 May 2016
(SOURCE)   More than 120 people were killed Monday in a wave of bombings claimed by the Islamic State group in northwestern Syria, the deadliest attacks yet in the regime’s coastal heartland.

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 increasing pressure in both Syria and Iraq, where Baghdad’s forces on Monday launched a major offensive to retake the jihadist-held city of Fallujah.

Seventy-three people were killed in Jableh and another 48 in Tartus to the south, 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 via its Amaq news agency, saying its fighters had attacked “Alawite gatherings” in Tartus and Jableh, referring to the minority sect from which the Assad clan hails.

IS is not known to have a presence in Syria’s coastal provinces, where its jihadist rival and Al-Qaeda’s local branch Al-Nusra Front is much more prominent.

AFP / Laurence SAUBADU, Simon MALFATTO

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 22-year-old university student in Jableh.

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 22-year-old university student in Jableh.

– ‘In the heart of the battle’ –

“I thought the war was over and that I could walk safely. But I was surprised to see that we’re still in the heart of the battle,” he said.

Jableh lies in Latakia province, while Tartus is the regional capital of the adjacent governorate of the same name.

The seaside cities have remained relatively secure even as Syria’s war has raged in Latakia province’s rural northeast and throughout the country.

Syrian state media also reported the attacks but gave a total of 78 dead, including 45 in Jableh and 33 in Tartus.

The attacks began at 9:00 am local time (0600 GMT) with three explosions at a busy bus station in Tartus, where regime ally Russia has long maintained a naval facility.

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