Blasts kill 20 in Homs ahead of Syrian peace talks

BEIRUT - Multiple bombings targeted a government-run security checkpoint in the central Syrian city of Homs on Tuesday, killing at least 20 people and wounding over a hundred amid intense political jockeying ahead of UN-backed peace talks scheduled to begin in Geneva Friday.

See Full Article

With just three days to go, the opposition is still undecided about whether it will attend the talks, throwing diplomatic efforts into question even as the UN's special envoy to Syria was preparing to send out invitations.

The talks are meant to start a political process to end the conflict that began in 2011 as a largely peaceful uprising against Assad's rule but escalated into an all-out war after a harsh state crackdown. The plan calls for cease-fires in parallel to the talks, a new constitution and elections in a year and a half.

The attack in Homs, which was claimed by the Islamic State group, came as government forces retook a strategic town from opposition fighters and militants in the south of the country.

Homs Governor Talal Barazi told the SANA news agency that the checkpoint was hit "first by a car bomb, which was then followed by a suicide bombing."

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility, according to a report by the Aamaq news agency, which is affiliated with the extremist group.

Syrian state television broadcast footage of the aftermath of the Homs bombing, showing cars ablaze and extensive damage to shops and apartments around the site of the explosion in the Zahra neighbourhood, which is inhabited mostly by members of President Bashar Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Islam.

The district has been a frequent target of bombings in the past few months.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group which relies on a network of informants across Syria for its news, said the death toll had climbed to 25, with 15 of the casualties being security personnel.

The Observatory quoted witnesses at the scene saying the first bomber attracted a crowd of security agents by shouting curses about the Homs governor, then blew his vehicle up.

Homs, which was once known as the "capital of the revolution," is Syria's third largest city and was one of the first to rise against the government in 2012. Government forces have since managed to expel most militants from the city and much of it has been destroyed.

Meanwhile, in southern Syria, government forces took control of the town of Sheikh Maskin, culminating an offensive that began in late December to retake the town after seizing the Brigade 82 military base, nearby.

Sheikh Maskin lies near the highway connecting Damascus and the Jordanian border and connects the Syrian capital to Daraa, a border town held by opposition fighters. It is the latest in a string of battlefield successes for Assad's military that have bolstered his hand ahead of the planned peace talks.

The Saudi-backed opposition was meeting Tuesday in Riyadh to make a final decision whether to attend the talks. The opposition has accused Russia, a key backer of the Syrian government, of trying to "dictate" who from the opposition would participate in the talks.

Tensions over who would be invited to the talks forced a few days' delay and continued Tuesday, few days before Friday's target date.

Russia argued strongly against Turkey's demand to keep a leading Kurdish group out of the talks, and said it expects the UN envoy to resist "blackmail by Turkey and others, reflecting the sharp differences that remain.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized at a press conference in Moscow that the main Syrian Kurdish group - the Democratic Union Party, or PYD - plays an important role in fighting the Islamic State group and is an essential part of political settlement in Syria.

Turkey sees the PYD and its YPG militia group as branches of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a Kurdish group that Ankara has long fought and considers a terrorist group.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • U.S. lawmakers demand action on food corruption in Venezuela

    World News CTV News
    CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuelan officials may face U.S. sanctions for profiting from food shortages that have exacerbated hunger in the South American country. The calls by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle come in response to an Associated Press investigation that found trafficking in hard-to-find food has become big business in Venezuela, with the military at the heart of the graft. Source
  • Protesters take control of Mexican border crossing with U.S.

    World News CTV News
    TIJUANA, Mexico -- Protesters took control of vehicle lanes at one of the busiest crossings on the U.S. border Sunday to oppose Mexican gasoline price hikes, waving through motorists into Mexico after Mexican authorities abandoned their posts. Source
  • MH370 search crews return to port after fruitless hunt ends

    World News Toronto Sun
    SYDNEY, Australia — The ship involved in the recently halted hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 returned to port in western Australia on Monday, where officials from the countries that funded the fruitless search gathered to thank them and to defend their decision to end the hunt despite recommendations from investigators that it continue. Source
  • Ship involved in failed search for MH370 returns home

    World News CTV News
    SYDNEY -- The ship involved in the recently halted hunt for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has returned to port in western Australia for the final time. Officials from Malaysia, Australia and China gathered in Perth on Monday to thank the crew of the Fugro Equator. Source
  • Canadian chefs take 2nd at international ice sculpture competition

    Canada News CBC News
    A pair of chefs representing Canada won second place in one of the world's largest ice carving competitions, which takes place each year in northeastern China. Rusty Cox, of Cranbrook, B.C., and Steve Buzak, from Edmonton, Alta. Source
  • 18 dead amid reported tornadoes, other storms in the South

    World News Toronto Sun
    ATLANTA — A weekend of deadly weather in the Southeast killed 15 people and injured dozens more, authorities said Sunday, while residents along the Georgia-Florida line were bracing for more intense, fast-moving storms — including unusually strong “long track” twisters. Source
  • 'He lights up my life': Boy born to dying B.C. woman now thriving

    Canada News CTV News
    A baby born to a dying woman whose last wish was to hold her son is now thriving as a toddler, family members say. Breanne Smaaslet, 22, was diagnosed with terminal osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, when she discovered she was pregnant. Source
  • Mexico identifies 56 sets of human remains in mass grave

    World News Toronto Sun
    MEXICO CITY — Prosecutors said Sunday that 56 sets of human remains have been identified in a jumble of bone fragments found at a burial pit in Mexico’s northern border state of Nuevo Leon. State prosecutors said the pit was discovered in February 2016 on a rural hillside in Garcia, near the northern city of Monterrey. Source
  • Canada poised to deport serial rapist

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Authorities in Malaysia are on alert as Canada gets set to deport an unrepentant serial rapist back to his homeland. The Ottawa-based High Commissioner of Malaysia is taking the “necessary action” regarding Selva Kumar Subbiah, spokesman Dzulkefly Abdullah said in an e-mail, without elaborating. Source
  • 'An awakening' for Canadians attending U.S. women’s marches

    Canada News CTV News
    Canadian women who attended women's marches in the United States on Saturday say the events have left them feeling inspired. Busloads of Canadians from Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and other cities crossed the border Friday and Saturday to attend the anti-Donald Trump marches, including a major one in Washington, D.C. Source