Damascus: A string of suicide blasts and raids claimed by the Islamic State group
killed more than 220 people in southern Syria on Wednesday, in one of the
jihadists’ 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 IS retains a presence in
a northeastern desert region.
The bloodshed came almost a week into a Russia-backed regime campaign to oust IS
fighters from a holdout in a neighbouring province of the country’s south.
IS claimed responsibility for the violence, saying “soldiers of the caliphate”
attacked Syrian government positions and security outposts in Sweida city, then
detonated explosive belts.
The Britain-based Observatory said four suicide bombers targeted Sweida city while
others hit small villages to the north and east and shot residents in their homes.
At least 221 people were killed, including 127 civilians, the Observatory said.
The remaining 94 dead were pro-regime fighters, mostly residents who took up arms
to defend their homes, it said.
The overwhelming majority of the dead “were in (Sweida’s) northern countryside,
where the bodies of civilians executed inside their homes were found,” Observatory
head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
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” and
one of the deadliest ever IS attacks in Syria, the Observatory chief said.
He said regime forces eventually ousted IS from several villages its fighters had
seized and put an end to the attacks.
“Some residents who fled the attacks on their villages are returning and finding
people dead in their homes,” Abdel Rahman said.
At least 38 IS fighters were also killed, including the suicide attackers.