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Bus bombing rocks Alawite district in Homs city

AMMAN: A public bus bombing killed eight people and injured […]

5 December 2017

AMMAN: A public bus bombing killed eight people and injured 18 more in central Homs on Tuesday, state media and local sources said, the latest in a string of bombings targeting the heart of the government-held city.

An explosive device planted on a civilian passenger bus was “detonated remotely” as the vehicle passed through the Akrama district of Homs city on Tuesday morning, Syrian state news agency SANA reported, citing Homs Governor Talal al-Barazi.

Most residents of Homs city’s Akrama district are members of Syria’s minority Alawite community, of which president Bashar al-Assad is a member. Akrama, together with the adjacent Zahraa and Dhahab districts, is a heavily guarded bastion of regime support in the provincial capital.

Islamic State-linked news agency Amaq reported that Tuesday’s bombing was carried out “by an IS detachment” and had killed “11 members of the Syrian army.”

First responders in Homs city on Tuesday. Photo by AFP.

SANA called the attack “a desperate attempt to undermine the steadfastness of the people and their support for the Syrian Arab Army.”

Local news sites, Syrian state media and a resident Syria Direct spoke to in Akrama who was at the scene on Tuesday all said the bombing hit a servees—a fixed-line minibus used across Syria—that was carrying civilian passengers.

Akrama resident Muadh al-Awad, 36, was spending a week-long leave from the Syrian army with his wife and children at their Homs city apartment on Tuesday when he heard the blast. He says he ran down to the street in his pajamas to join others headed towards the scene, approximately 2km away.

“I saw blood on the ground, body parts everywhere,” al-Awad told Syria Direct by Skype. “People were horrified and calling their relatives and friends to make sure they were okay.” Bystanders at the scene told him the bombing hit a civilian bus, he said.

Bus wreckage after  Tuesday’s bombing. Photo courtesy of SANA.

Tuesday’s bombing is the latest in a series of car bombings and attacks in Homs city stretching back at least three years that have killed scores of people, primarily civilians. The most recent took place in Zahraa district this past May, just days after the final opposition district in the city—Waer—surrendered and returned to government control. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for that bombing, which killed four people.

In February of this year, dozens of Syrian army officers and soldiers were killed in Homs city in two coordinated attacks on security branches in the provincial capital by members of the hardline rebel coalition Hay’at Tahrir a-Sham, which rules Syria’s northwestern Idlib province.

Several previous attacks against the heavily guarded, Alawite-majority districts of Homs—most using twin car bombings—have gone unclaimed.

Qusai al-Ali, a 17-year-old Homs resident, was at the scene of Tuesday’s bombing. He described anger and frustration to Syria Direct about the attack, and the perceived inability of security services to prevent it.

“With all the searching, surveillance devices and detectors, how could these car bombs get to us?” he asked.

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