BEIRUT (Reuters) - A bomb attack claimed by Islamic State in the Syrian government-controlled city of Homs killed at least 24 people on Tuesday, the city’s governor said, as government forces took back some IS-held villages east of Aleppo.
The governor of Homs said the first of two explosions was caused by a car bomb targeting a security checkpoint. A suicide bomber then set off an explosive belt, state media reported.
“We know we are targets for terrorists, especially now the (Syrian) army is advancing and local reconciliation agreements are being implemented,” Governor Talal Barazi told Reuters by telephone.
Supported by four months of Russian air strikes, the Syrian government has intensified attacks on insurgents across the country, including Islamic State which controls wide areas of central and eastern Syria.
The Syrian army and allied forces have been battling Islamic State in areas to the east and southeast of Homs city. They recently took back several villages including Maheen 80 km (50 miles) southeast of Homs.
North of Homs in Aleppo province, the Syrian army and allied forces have since Monday taken the IS-held villages of Ain Hanash, Qatar and Tal Hataabaat around 50 km from the city of Aleppo, according to state broadcaster SANA.
Although small, these villages lie to the south of the IS-held town of al-Bab - an important stronghold for the group.
Fighting continues on the outskirts of Ain Hanash, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.
Following the double bombings in Homs, 17 people were in hospital, one of them in critical condition, Barazi said.
Syrian state TV earlier reported that 22 people had died and more than 100 people had been injured.
Observatory monitors put the death toll at 29 and said those killed in the explosions, which took place in a mostly Alawite district, included 15 members of government forces and pro-government militiamen. President Bashar al-Assad is a member of the minority Alawite sect.
Islamic State said in a statement that its attack had killed at least 30 people.
Reporting by Omar Fahmy in Cairo, Kinda Makieh in Damascus and Lisa Barrington in Beirut; Editing by Tom Perry and Mark Heinrich