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

  • Arctic sea ice hits another record monthly low

    World News CBC News
    Though this is when the Arctic is supposed to be refreezing, scientists say sea ice there hit record low levels for November. In the crucial Barents Sea, the amount of floating ice decreased when it would be expected to grow. Source
  • Chief feels 'abandoned' as Sûreté du Québec to pull officers from Lac-Simon

    Canada News CBC News
    The Sûreté du Québec is removing its officers from Lac-Simon, an Algonquin reserve near Val-d'Or, amid strained relations between police and the Indigenous community. The timeline for the withdrawal isn't clear. The chief of the Anishnaabe Nation of Lac-Simon told Radio-Canada the SQ will stop patrolling starting today. Source
  • Toddler dies after swallowing pill at relatives' home: police

    Canada News CTV News
    WHITBY, Ont. -- Police are warning people to lock up their medication following the death of a toddler east of Toronto. The incident took place on Nov. 19 after a Whitby, Ont., family visited relatives. Source
  • Tamara Lovett's father says she and Ryan were inseparable

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Tamara Lovett was a loving mother who cared greatly for her son Ryan, her negligence trial was told Tuesday. Among those testifying was Lovett’s father, Donn, who battled tears to tell court his grandson was a healthy boy whose mother treated him kindly. Source
  • Trump is Time magazine’s Person of the Year

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — Time magazine on Wednesday named president-elect Donald Trump its Person of the Year. “It’s a great honour. It means a lot,” Trump said in a telephone interview on NBC’s “Today” show. The magazine’s managing editor, Nancy Gibbs, said on the program that Democrat Hillary Clinton was the No. Source
  • Alberta, Saskatchewan ranchers brace for impact of bovine TB cull and quarantine

    Canada News CBC News
    Farmers from more than 40 ranches in Alberta and Saskatchewan are wondering what kind of compensation and business lies ahead for them as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) cracks down on a bovine tuberculosis outbreak in Western Canada. Source
  • Frantic rescue underway as quake kills dozens in Indonesia [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    BIREUEN, Indonesia — A strong undersea earthquake rocked Indonesia’s Aceh province early on Wednesday, killing at least 25 people and causing dozens of buildings to collapse. The U.S. Geological Survey said the shallow 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck at 5:03 a.m. Source
  • 3 things Canada can't explain about the way it funds First Nations education

    Canada News CBC News
    Canada's parliamentary budget officer says the Liberal government cannot explain how it calculates the amount of funding it spends on First Nations education or why it is nearly $600 million dollars less than the average provincial education system. Source
  • Pakistani national carrier's plane missing after takeoff

    World News CTV News
    ISLAMABAD -- A plane belonging to Pakistan's national carrier crashed on Wednesday shortly after takeoff from the country's north with about 40 people on board, a spokesman and the police said. According to senior police officer Khurram Rasheed, the plane crashed in a village near the town of Havelian, located about 75 kilometres northwest from the capital, Islamabad. Source
  • Pakistani plane crashes after takeoff with 48 people aboard

    World News CTV News
    ISLAMABAD -- A plane belonging to Pakistan's national carrier crashed on Wednesday with 48 people on board, apparently killing all of them, police and an airline spokesman said. According to senior police officer Khurram Rasheed, the plane crashed in a village near the town of Havelian, located about 75 kilometres northwest of the capital, Islamabad. Source