Islamic State claims attacks killing over 100 in southern Syria
Raids and suicide bombings carried out by the Islamic State group in Syria’s southern Sweida province have killed 156 people including 62 civilians, a war monitor said Wednesday. The coordinated attacks were the deadliest to hit government territory in many months.
Most of the victims were killed in raids on villages in the north-east of the province, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Others were killed in suicide attacks in the provincial capital, the monitor said, updating earlier tolls.
The Islamic State claimed on Wednesday that its “soldiers” had carried out the surprise attacks, targeting the government and security centres in the southern city.
The bombings — including a suicide attack at a busy vegetable market and a city square — sparked clashes later in the day between Syrian troops and allied militias and IS militants.
Syrian local health official Hassan Omar told The Associated Press that as many as 80 people were also wounded in Wednesday’s attacks and clashes, which the government blamed on Islamic State militants.
State-run news agency SANA earlier reported some of the attacks, including suicide bombings in the city of Sweida, a provincial capital populated by Syria’s minority Druze.
The Observatory said jihadists seized hostages from the villages they had attacked.
Sweida Governor Amer al-Eshi said authorities also arrested another attacker. “The city of Sweida is secure and calm now,” he told state-run Ikhbariyah TV.
The Islamic State was driven from nearly all the territory it once held in Syria last year in separate offensives by the Russian-backed army and a US-backed militia alliance.
Since then, Syrian President Bashar Assad has gone on to crush the last remaining rebel enclaves near the cities of Damascus and Homs and swept rebels from the southwest.
After losing its strongholds in eastern Syria last year, Islamic State launched insurgency operations from pockets of territory in desert areas.
(Arab Weekly staff and news agencies)