Deadly car blast rocks al-As­sad heart­land

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

AMMAN: At least 10 peo­ple died in a car blast yes­ter­day in the Syr­ian coastal Mediter­ranean prov­ince of Latakia where two Rus­sian bases are lo­cated, state tele­vi­sion said.

Scores of cars were ablaze and shops were also dam­aged by the blast in a bustling com­mer­cial district of the town of Jableh that lies in the heart­land of Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad’s mi­nor­ity Alaw­ite sect.

Se­nior med­i­cal of­fi­cer Ghas­san Findi told state tele­vi­sion the death toll was ex­pected to rise with res­cue op­er­a­tions con­tin­u­ing and scores of in­jured still be­ing rushed to nearby hos­pi­tals.

Jableh’s hospi­tal di­rec­tor Qu­sai al-Khalil said many among about 30 peo­ple in­jured were in crit­i­cal con­di­tion.

“It was a strong ex­plo­sion, from the na­ture of the wounds at­tended to at the hospi­tal.”

State TV showed footage of man­gled cars and shut­ters of shops dam­aged and blown apart as res­cue work­ers cleared the de­bris amid a heavy se­cu­rity pres­ence in the bustling com­mer­cial area near a pop­u­lar veg­etable mar­ket and a garage de­pot.

The head of the lo­cal po­lice force told state me­dia initial in­ves­ti­ga­tions sug­gested that a car parked in the area was re­motely det­o­nated.

At least 150 peo­ple were killed and 200 wounded in May when bombs hit the town and the port city of Tar­tous on the Mediter­ranean coast where Rus­sian mil­i­tary bases are lo­cated.

Latakia prov­ince hosts Moscow’s naval base in the Tar­tous port while the Hmeymim air base is Rus­sia’s main launch­ing ground for its in­ten­sive bomb­ing cam­paign against rebel-held ter­ri­tory.

Is­lamic State claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the May at­tacks in a state­ment posted online say­ing its fight­ers had tar­geted “gath­er­ings of Alaw­ites” de­ploy­ing sui­cide bombers to in­flict the heav­i­est losses.

Hard­line Sunni mil­i­tants con­sider Alaw­ites heretics.

Latakia city, which is north of Jableh and cap­i­tal of the prov­ince, has been tar­geted on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions by bomb­ings and in­sur­gent rocket at­tacks.

How­ever, these gov­ern­ment-held coastal cities have been largely spared the wide-scale vi­o­lence and may­hem seen else­where in the wartorn coun­try. – Reuters

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