Islamic State suicide bombers strike Syrian regime in Damascus, Homs and Tartus

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Earlier today, the Islamic State launched five “martyrdom operations” in areas controlled by Bashar al Assad’s regime. The bombings took place in Damascus, Homs and Tartus. A sixth “martyr” struck Kurdish forces in Hasakah.

The attacks were reported by Amaq News Agency, a propaganda arm of the so-called “caliphate”. A screen shot of Amaq’s report in English can be seen above. The Syrian government’s own mouthpiece, SANA, confirmed the wave of bombings.

Three of the suicide operatives struck outside the city of Tartus, which is on the Mediterranean coast and houses a Russian naval base. According to Amaq, “a martyrdom bomber hit a Syrian army checkpoint with his explosive-laden car at the Arzunah Bridge, followed by two more attacks with explosive vests targeting security forces arriving at the site of the explosion.”

SANA’s account is basically consistent with Amaq’s. However, Assad’s propaganda shop claimed the victims were all civilians. Both reports said a jihadist driving a vehicle-borne explosive device (VBIED) led the way and then the jihadists struck the people arriving at the scene to help. Jihadists regularly employ this tactic to maximize the number of victims caused by suicide operations.

The casualty counts in Tartus vary, with SANA saying 30 were killed and 43 more wounded. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that 38 perished. In addition to civilian casualties, SOHR claimed that 16 members of the Syrian regime’s forces, “including a colonel,” were among those killed.

Separately, according to Amaq, a suicide bomber drove a VBIED into a Syrian army checkpoint “in the Saburah area, west of Damascus.” And “another martyrdom bomber assaulted a Syrian army checkpoint at the entrance to the Zahra neighborhood in the city of Homs.”

Amaq claims the five suicide “attacks resulted in dozens of killed and wounded Syrian regime forces, including several officers.”

The Islamic State frequently strikes the Syrian regime with its “martyrs.” According to data provided by Amaq, the Assad regime was the second most frequent target of the group’s “martyrdom operations” through the first six months of 2016. Only Iraqi forces were struck more often.

Elsewhere in Homs province, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s men and the Assad regime continue to clash.

On Sept. 3 and 4, according to Amaq, “fighters of the Islamic State thwarted two attempts by the Syrian army and Shiite militias to attack positions in the Huwaysis area of the eastern Homs countryside.” The jihadists allegedly killed 20 Syrian soldiers, but this claim cannot be verified.

Amaq said the Syrian government’s assault was a response to the Islamic State’s recent advance “in the area at the expense of Syrian regime forces,” with the jihadists “capturing the strategic Sawwanah hill and several checkpoints located on the road leading to the Shaer Gas Company.” The two sides have repeatedly fought one another at and near the Shaer gas field, with the jihadists posting images of the spoils captured there in May. [See Threat Matrix report, Islamic State claims control of Shaer gas field, advertises spoils.]

On Aug. 30, Amaq reported that “20 Syrian regime soldiers and Shiite militiamen” during an “assault by Islamic State fighters on the Sawwanah hill in the surroundings of Huwaysis, east of Homs.”

As with much of the reporting out of Syria, Amaq’s claims are often difficult to corroborate, at least with respect to the precise details. Still, the Islamic State’s media machine frequently reports on fighting between Baghdadi’s caliphate and the Assad regime.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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