Suicide Bomber Kills Four in Assad’s Hometown

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A picture taken from behind broken glass shows a couple pushing a pram as they rush to check their house following an airstrike on the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma, on February 21, 2015. AFP/Abd Doumany

Published Sunday, February 22, 2015

A suicide bomber driving an ambulance killed four people on Sunday in an unprecedented attack on a hospital that took Syria's war to the ruling Assad clan's hometown for the first time, a monitoring group said.

"A man drove an ambulance packed with explosives into the parking of the Qardaha hospital. Another man was in the vehicle with him, but it was unclear whether he was an accomplice or a hostage. Four people were killed in the attack," said Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel-Rahman.

Earlier, state television had reported the blast but did not specify the nature of the attack.

The attack, the first explosion to hit the heart of the western town since the outbreak of the war in Syria in 2011, killed a nurse, a hospital employee and two soldiers, the Britain-based Abdel-Rahman said.

The outskirts of Qardaha have previously come under rocket fire, while Latakia province — where the town is located — has seen several rounds of heavy fighting.

Armed groups fighting the Syrian army and pro-government forces regard Qardaha, a town of 5,000 nestled in pine-clad hilltops overlooking the coastal city of Latakia, as a top prize.

They have launched several offensives in the past few years with an objective of reaching Qardaha, President Bashar al-Assad's stronghold and burial place of his late father Hafez and his brother Bassel.

In 2013 they launched an offensive and seized several villages and killed more than 200 people. They managed to get as close as 20 kilometers (12 miles) to Qardaha before being pushed back.

More than 210,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the country's conflict in March 2011 and half of Syria’s population of 22 million has been forced to flee their homes.

The conflict began as a peaceful revolt demanding democratic change, but evolved into a brutal war after government forces violently repressed demonstrators. Islamists have since poured into the country from all over the world, seeking to establish an “Islamic caliphate.”

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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