Middle East

Syria conflict: 'Islamic State' Homs bomb attack kills 16

Gas cylinders in the debris of a car bomb attack in a government-controlled area of Homs Image copyright EPA/Syrian Arab News Agency
Image caption The attack comes days after a ceasefire was implemented in the city

The so-called Islamic State (IS) says it was behind a bomb attack that killed at least 16 people in the government-controlled Syrian city of Homs.

The group said one of its militants set off the car bomb among "rafidis" - a derogatory term for Shia Muslims.

The attack comes just days after rebels began evacuating the area under a ceasefire deal with the government.

IS has been expanding towards Homs in recent months.

"Abu Ahmed al-Homsi parked his car in the Zahra neighbourhood and exploded it among the 'rafidis' before detonating his explosives belt," IS said in a statement.

It claimed to have carried out two blasts, killing more than 25 people and wounding 70. Officials say 16 people were killed in a single explosion.

The vehicle used was filled with 150kg (330lb) of explosives and caused a gas cylinder to blow up in a nearby shop shortly after, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (Sana) said.

The first bomb exploded near a hospital in the al-Zahra area on Saturday, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionHoms has seen some of the fiercest fighting of Syria's four-year civil war

Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi condemned the attacks, saying they would "not discourage the Syrian people", according to Sana.

Government forces were able to tighten control of Homs following the implementation of a UN-backed truce deal in al-Wair, the last rebel-held area in the city.

About 700 people, made up of rebels and their families, are thought to have left Homs and travelled to rebel-held areas of Idlib province on Wednesday.

Fighters linked to al-Qaeda were among those due to leave, but moderate groups who accepted the ceasefire were expected to remain.

Homs: Syrian revolution's fallen 'capital'

  • Protests against President Assad erupt in Homs in mid-March 2011
  • By the middle of 2012, up to a fifth of Homs is in opposition hands
  • In the same year the Syrian military launches an operation to crush resistance. Districts are bombarded, leaving civilians trapped, and the government re-takes key districts
  • By January 2014, only the Old City and al-Wair are still held by the opposition. A ceasefire is reached in the Old City after warnings about the dire humanitarian situation
  • In 2015, under a similar deal, rebels begin evacuating al-Wair