121 Killed In Syria Bombings as Kerry Talks Up Truce Prospects

CAIRO (dpa/TNS) -
Syrian soldiers and civilians inspect the site of multiple bomb blasts that hit the Sayeda Zeinab area, a southern district of Damascus, on Sunday. (Reuters/Stringer)
Syrian soldiers and civilians inspect the site of multiple bomb blasts that hit the Sayeda Zeinab area, a southern district of Damascus, on Sunday. (Reuters/Stringer)

Two bomb attacks killed 121 people in government-held areas of Syria, according to a monitoring group, as Secretary of State John Kerry said a truce in the civil war could go into effect within days.

The attacks on Sunday with explosive-rigged cars killed 59 people in the central city of Homs, and at least 62 people in the Damascus suburb of Sayyida Zeinab, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Both areas are controlled by government forces and have been the targets of previous bombings, claimed by Islamic State, in recent months.

The explosions in Homs hit the city’s al-Zahraa district, most of whose residents belong to President Bashar Assad’s Alawite sect. At least 39 of the dead were civilians, the Observatory said, with the identity of the others unclear.

The observatory said that at least one car bomb and two suicide attackers wearing explosive belts were involved in the attacks in Sayyida Zeinab, a largely Shiite southern suburb of Damascus.

The area, a government stronghold, is home to an important Shiite shrine. Pro-Iranian militia who have come to the aid of Assad’s overstretched forces have boasted that they are defending the shrine.

The bombings came a month after previous attacks that killed 71 people in Sayyida Zeinab, including 29 civilians and 42 pro-regime militiamen, according to figures published by the observatory at the time.

Damaged buses are seen at the site of two bomb blasts in the government-controlled city of Homs, Syria. (Reuters/SANA/Handout via Reuters)
Damaged buses are seen at the site of two bomb blasts in the government-controlled city of Homs, Syria. (Reuters/SANA/Handout via Reuters)

Earlier Sunday, Kerry said he had reached a “provisional agreement in principle” with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on terms for a truce — but there was no confirmation from Moscow.

Kerry, speaking in the Jordanian capital, Amman, said the truce “could begin in the coming days,” although he warned that the deal was “not yet done.”

“I anticipate that our presidents … may well speak somewhere in the next days or so in order to try and bring this to pass,” Kerry said.

The U.S. top diplomat’s comments came two days after the temporary cessation of hostilities, agreed to by world powers meeting in Munich a week earlier, was originally due to go into effect.

The head of the Syrian opposition’s peace talks committee said Saturday that rebel groups had agreed in principle to a temporary truce, on condition that it covered all front lines and was accompanied by humanitarian measures and the release of prisoners.


Updated Sunday, February 21, 2016 at 5:19 pm