48 Dead, Dozens Hurt in IS-Claimed Blasts across Syria

Bombings claimed by the Islamic State group killed at least 48 people and wounded dozens in mainly government-controlled areas of Syria on Monday, a day after IS lost the last stretch of the Syria-Turkey border under its control.

The deadliest in the wave of blasts was a double bombing in the coastal province of Tartus, a stronghold of President Bashar Assad’s government.

The bombings hit the Arzuna bridge outside the provincial capital of Tartus city, killing at least 35 people and wounding 43, state media said.

Tartus has been largely spared the worst violence of Syria’s conflict since it began with anti-government protests, and has become a refuge for many Syrians fleeing the fighting.

In the northeastern city of Hasakeh, mostly controlled by Kurdish forces, a bomber on a motorbike killed six members of the Kurdish security forces and two civilians.

– ‘Simultaneous attacks’ –

In central Homs city, the target was the al-Zahraa neighborhood, whose residents are mostly from the same Alawite sect as Assad and have regularly been targeted.

Four people were killed there in a car bombing that hit a checkpoint at the district’s entrance.

State television broadcast images of the aftermath, showing rubble strewn on the streets and smoke rising from the charred remains of vehicles.

Another attack hit the al-Sabura road west of the capital Damascus, with state media saying one person was killed and three wounded.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said that attack targeted a checkpoint and killed three people.

The IS-affiliated Amaq agency carried a statement saying the jihadist group was behind a “string of simultaneous suicide attacks.”

Syria expert Thomas Pierret said the attacks were part of a new IS “strategy… to ‘seduce’ rebels by demonstrating IS’ capacity to strike the regime.”

“IS also wants to whip up sectarian tensions for its benefit and is counting on more of these events to mobilize its supporters in these regions,” he told AFP.

The latest violence came a day after Turkish forces and allied rebels seized the last part of the Turkish-Syrian border under IS control.

The operation — dubbed “Euphrates Shield” — pushed further into IS territory on Monday and captured another five villages, the Observatory said.

Turkey began an operation inside Syria on August 24, targeting both IS and Syrian Kurdish forces that have been a key U.S. partner in fighting the jihadist group in Syria.