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At least 10 killed in Syrian government stronghold of Latakia

In what has been described as a rare occurrence, a car bomb in President Assad's bastion Latakia has killed 10 people
A handout image released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows security forces and people at the site of a car bombing on 2 September 2015 in the government-controlled city of Latakia (AFP)

A car bomb exploded in a main square in the coastal city of Latakia, the bastion of President Bashar al-Assad and the minority Alawite sect which he belongs to.

Ten people were killed and dozens were wounded in the explosion, which according to state television SANA news agency, caused significant damage to nearby cars and buildings.

“Terrorists detonated a car laden with many explosives at noon (0900 GMT) in Hamam Square in Latakia, killing 10 people,” SANA reported.

State television said that 25 people were injured, and aired footage of charred cars with their windows blown out, as well as firefighters attempting to put out the blazes in the city.

Ibrahim Khader al Salem, the governor of Latakia, told state 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”.

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

Latakia has been largely spared the violence that has ravaged the rest of the country since protests erupted in March 2011.

No one has claimed responsibility for the explosions so far. Head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel Rahman described Wednesday’s car explosion as “the biggest car bomb attack in Latakia since the war began”.

“This is rare for Latakia city, which is usually hit by rockets,” Abdel Rahman told AFP, who added that the explosion wounded dozens, “including four or five in critical condition.”

Opposition fighters embedded in the hilly terrain outside of the city regularly fire rockets and missiles into the area.

SANA reported that officials had discovered two cars heavily laden with explosives in the past few days and foiled attempts to detonate them in heavily populated areas, arresting those responsible.

In a separate attack on the same day, a mortar shell that targeted the engineering college of Damascus University killed two students and wounded at least 15 people, state media said.

More than 240,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has spiralled from an anti-government movement to a multi-front civil war.