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ISIS claims attack in Syria’s Hama

At least two people were killed in suicide bombings outside the headquarters of the ruling Baath Party in the normally-secure city.

Aftermath of Monday

BEIRUT – ISIS has said it conducted a deadly terrorist attack in regime-held Hama, a normally secure city that rebels aim to capture with an ambitious offensive that has already achieved dramatic gains.

 

Early Monday afternoon, two suicide bombers detonated themselves near the city’s central Orontes Square, killing two and injuring 12 others—most of them civilians—according to Syrian state media.

 

At least one soldier was killed in the attack, which targeted an entrance the headquarters for the ruling Baath Party located in a well-secured area of the city, once the site of mass anti-regime protests in the early days of the Syrian uprising.

 

ISIS quickly claimed responsibility for the terror act, with its A3maq news agency saying that “three martyrdom attackers… targeted the headquarters of the [Baath] Party and the police near Orontes Square.”

 

A local news outlet explained that two of the suicide bombers managed to detonate their explosive vests: one at the main entrance of the building after being discovered by security, while another attacker blew himself up at an entrance along the perimeter of the compounds.

 

A third would-be bomber, in turn, was stopped by alert guards who dismantled the explosives rigged around his body, according to the Hama News Facebook page covering live developments in the city.

 

The governor of the province, Ghassan Khalaf, provided a similar account of the incident in an interview with Sham FM, telling the station that security forces “dealt with the other bomber, killing him.”

 

Rebels’ Hama campaign

 

Monday’s attack comes as Syrian rebel groups have steadily encroached southward toward Hama following the launch of an offensive on August 29, reaching to within 10-kilometers of the city limits.

 

The opposition factions paused their offensive in mid-September amid the US-Russian brokered cessation of hostilities, however following its collapse a new stage of the campaign commenced in the northeastern countryside of Hama, which was joined on September 27 by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, the Al-Nusra Front’s rebranded name after it publicly dropped ties with Al-Qaeda.

 

Pro-regime media in the past two weeks has touted planned counteroffensives, but none of them made any headway against the steadily advancing opposition groups.

 

Although rebel advances have raised optimism in pro-opposition circles that Hama will be within reach of insurgents, the military source who spoke with Enab Baladi stressed that rebels still need to solidify their lines north of the city.

 

“The entry into Hama will not be achieved without first liberating the mountains overlooking Hama and ensuring the extension of the opposition’s [lines] at the city’s northern entrance,” he said, cautioning that fighting could last for weeks.

 

Rebels have already held discussions on contingency plans for governing the city in the event of its capture.

 

A military commander in the Free Syrian Army-affiliated Jaysh al-Nasr told a pro-opposition outlet that “we had several meetings to discuss the status of Hama, in case of its liberation,God willing.”

 

“Most of the factions unanimously agreed on the need the need to preserve the state’s service institutions,” Abu Ahmed said in an interview with All4Syria during which he vowed rebels would avoid to repeat the “mistakes of Idlib.”

 

“Plans have been prepared for [governing Hama],” he added.

  

NOW's English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Amin Nasr translated Arabic-language material. 

Aftermath of Monday's attack in central Hama. (Facebook/Hamah.Now)

At least one soldier was killed in the attack, which targeted an entrance the headquarters for the ruling Baath Party located in a well-secured area of the city.