Group says at least 53 killed -- including 46 children -- in twin explosions in Homs
Mourning residents called for the ouster of Homs' governor
Syrian official blasts "heinous crimes against innocent children," state news says
Homs had been a focal point in Syria's civil war but was relatively quiet in recent months
Residents of one of Syria’s most war-ravaged cities demanded answers Thursday after a pair of devastating explosions killed dozens of children.
The bloodshed Wednesday spurred mourning residents to demand the ouster of the Homs governor and his assistant, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
It spurred a Syrian official, Hilal al-Hilal, to visit the wounded and offer condolences to loved ones of the dead at the direction of President Bashar al-Assad.
“(These) heinous crimes against innocent children reflects the cowardice of the terrorists who have sought to kill science,” al-Hilal said, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency.
An earlier SANA story said that an explosives-packed car was detonated minutes before a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of a school. The blasts were timed to coincide with students leaving school, to inflict maximum casualties, that report said.
Horrifying video shows pieces of bodies lying on the street afterward, amid the injured and the scared.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group, said Thursday that at least 53 were killed in the blasts in Homs’ Ekrima neighborhood, adding, “the number of the dead is likely to rise (due) to the serious injuries.”
Those killed include 46 children, most of them less than 12 years old; the United Nations reported that at least 30 of the dead were schoolchildren between the ages of 6 and 9.
The neighborhood that was attacked is predominantly Alawite, a religious minority that is a Shiite offshoot to which al-Assad belongs. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called “an act of the utmost depravity.”
Whomever is to blame, the blasts shows that Homs is once again in the middle of war.
For much of Syria’s 3½-year civil war, the ancient city has been known as the capital of the uprising against al-Assad – and it became a prime target for his forces as a result.
U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos estimates that as of September 30, the ongoing war has killed more than 190,000 people, and thousands more were thought to be trapped in a siege dating to June 2012.
Yet the situation appeared to stabilize this spring after a truce between government and rebel forces. Since then, Homs has been firmly under government control and relatively quiet.
But Wednesday’s blasts shattered that sense of security and stability.