Car bomb kills 10 in Syria regime bastion Latakia

AFP , Wednesday 2 Sep 2015

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, residents and emergency personnel gather at the site of a car bombing at a square in the port city of Latakia, Syria, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. (Photo:AP)

Ten people were killed and dozens wounded on Wednesday in a rare car bombing in the Syrian city of Latakia, the coastal bastion of President Bashar al-Assad, state media said.

"Terrorists detonated a car laden with many explosives at noon (0900 GMT) in Hamam square in Latakia, killing 10 people," the official SANA news agency reported.

It said the explosion had also wounded 25 people and caused significant damage to nearby cars and buildings.

State television aired footage of charred cars with their windows blown out, and firefighters attempting to put out blazes in the city.

Latakia, the heartland of the minority Alawite sect to which the Assad clan belongs, has been largely spared the violence that has wracked Syria since an uprising against regime rule erupted in March 2011.

But SANA reported that officials had discovered two cars full of explosives in Latakia on Tuesday and "arrested those responsible".

The car bomb that went off on Wednesday was the biggest of its kind in Latakia since the war broke out, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"This is rare for Latakia city, which is usually hit by rockets," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Rebel fighters entrenched in the hilly terrain around Latakia regularly fire rockets and other missiles into the city.

Abdel Rahman said the car bomb detonated on the northern edges of the city and "wounded dozens, including four or five in critical condition".

Many Syrians displaced by violence in neighbouring regions have taken refuge in Latakia province and some businesses have moved to the relative safety of the area.

The province is home to Assad's ancestral village and support for his government remains strong there, although the war has also taken a toll among conscripts and volunteers from the area.

Rebels and jihadists have long made the region a target, in part for its symbolic value as a regime stronghold.

In recent months, a rebel alliance that includes Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front has been battling to capture the Sahl al-Ghab region that borders Latakia.

It has claimed some territory but is facing strong resistance from Syrian forces backed by Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement.

Elsewhere on Wednesday, two students were killed and 15 people wounded when mortar rounds hit an engineering college in Damascus, SANA said.

State television later reported another three people were killed and 45 wounded in opposition shelling on Jaramana, an area southeast of the capital.

More than 240,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which began with anti-government protests in March 2011 but spiralled into a complex civil war after a government crackdown.

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