Twin car bombs kill 25 in Syria's Homs: State media

AFP , Wednesday 9 Apr 2014

Two car bombs killed at least 25 people, including women and children, in a government-held neighbourhood of Syria's central city of Homs Wednesday, state news agency SANA reported.

Another 100 people were wounded in Karam al-Luz, in attacks SANA blamed on "terrorists," the government's term for people fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

"Twenty-five people fell as martyrs, including women and children, and more than 107 others were wounded after the explosion of the two car bombs" a half-hour apart, SANA said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the bombings killed 21 people in a mostly Alawite neighbourhood, referring to the Shiite Muslim offshoot sect to which the Assad family belongs.

Videos posted online by activists showed destroyed shopfronts and people panicking and running in all directions as rescuers struggled to extinguish a fire.

Syria's uprising began as a series of peaceful protests against the Assad family's four-decade rule but escalated into a full-scale insurgency after the regime launched a devastating crackdown on dissent.

More than 150,000 people have been killed since the revolt began in March 2011 and nine million have been driven from their homes, including 2.6 million international refugees.

Homs was an epicentre of the revolt but is now almost entirely in regime hands, with small pockets of rebels holding out in besieged areas in and around the devastated Old City.

Earlier Wednesday, troops fighting in the Qalamun region seized the town of Rankus, tightening their grip on the strategic region along the Lebanese border.

"Units of the Syrian army have now accomplished their operation in the Rankus area and restored security and stability after eliminating a large number of terrorists," state media said.

The Britain-based Observatory had earlier confirmed that "the army entered the area and is engaged in fierce fighting and heavy shelling."

The group, with a network of sources inside Syria, said 28 rebels had been killed in Qalamun area as well as in Eastern Ghouta, elsewhere in Damascus province, in fighting between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Troops backed by pro-regime militiamen and Lebanon's Shiite movement Hezbollah have captured most of Qalamun, through which a key highway runs between Damascus and Homs.

Last month, the regime dealt a major blow to the opposition by seizing its last key bastion in the region, the town of Yabrud.

The rebels still control a few smaller villages in Qalamun, but have seen their supply lines across the border with Lebanon largely severed.

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