A string of suicide blasts and raids claimed by the Daesh group killed more than 150 people in southern Syria on Wednesday, in one of the militants’ deadliest ever assaults in the country.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attacks hit several areas of the largely government-held southern province of Sweida, where Daesh retains a presence in a northeastern desert region.
They came almost a week into a deadly Russia-backed regime campaign to oust Daesh fighters from a holdout in a neighbouring province of the country’s south.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the violence, saying “soldiers of the caliphate” attacked Syrian government positions and security outposts in Sweida city, then detonated their explosive belts.
The Britain-based Observatory said three suicide attackers set off booby-trapped belts in Sweida city, as other blasts hit villages to the north and east. A fourth suicide explosion hit the city later.
“Daesh fighters then stormed villages in the province’s northeast and killed residents in their homes,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.
The suicide blasts and raids killed 156 people including 62 civilians, the Observatory said.
The remaining 94 dead were pro-regime fighters, most of whom where residents who had picked up weapons to defend their villages, it said.
Sweida, whose residents are mostly from the Druze minority, has been relatively insulated from the war that has ravaged the rest of the country since 2011.
“It’s the bloodiest death toll in Sweida province since the start of the war” in 2011 and one of the deadliest ever in Syria, Abdel Rahman said.
The violence also left 30 IS fighters dead, including the suicide attackers.
The militants captured at least three of the seven villages they targeted but clashes were ongoing Wednesday, the Observatory said.State media confirmed the attacks had killed and wounded people in Sweida city and villages to the north and east, but did not give a specific toll. — Reuters