Syrian car bomb kills 10 in Assad coastal stronghold

Latakia largely spared from conflict until now

At least 10 people were killed and dozens wounded when a car bomb exploded in the Syrian city of Latakia yesterday, state television said, in a rare attack in a coastal stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad.

Latakia has so far been largely spared the violence that has ravaged Syria during more than four years of civil war in which about a quarter of a million people have been killed.

In recent months, rebel attacks on government-held neighbourhoods in the capital Damascus and in Aleppo city have risen, with dozens of civilians killed or wounded.

The army has also stepped up air strikes on rebel-held towns and villages in northwestern Syria and the suburbs of Damascus that have killed hundreds of civilians in the last two months of intensified fighting on major fronts across the country.

Yesterday, Syrian air force strikes killed at least 14 people east of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said. The strikes hit Douma, Ghouta and Saqba and follow deadly strikes in the area in recent days.

In Latakia, the car bomb targeted a main square, state television said. There was no claim of responsibility for the bombing, which state media said was carried out by “terrorists”, a term it uses to describe insurgents fighting to topple Mr Assad.

Burning vehicles

Video footage showed wrecked and burning vehicles, with rescue workers and civilians fighting the fires.

The governor of Latakia, Ibrahim Khader al Salem, told pro-government television channels that insurgents sought to strike at the heart of government-held safe areas that had become a refuge for tens of thousands of displaced families in an attempt to sow "destruction and fear".

State media said a white van filled with at least half a tonne of explosives was parked near a school and had created a huge crater in the square that lies at a crossroad inside the port city.

At least two explosive-laden cars had been discovered in recent days in the city in foiled attempts to blow up heavily populated areas, it said.

Separately, a mortar attack on part of the campus of Damascus University killed at least two students and wounded several, state media said.

– (Reuters)