UPDATE: 3:25 p.m. EST — The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a deadly attack in the central Syrian city of Homs Saturday that killed at least 16 people. Their claim of responsibility was not independently verified.
“Abu Ahmed al-Homsi parked his car in the Zahra neighborhood and exploded it among the ‘rafidis’ before detonating his explosives belt,” ISIS said in a statement, using a derogatory term for Shiites, according to Al Arabiya.
A car rigged with some 330 pounds of TNT exploded in a government-held area in central Syria Saturday, killing at least 16 people and wounding dozens of others, according to state-controlled media and an opposition monitoring group, the Associated Press reported. Women and children were among the dead, Homs Gov. Talal Barazzi said, adding that some 15 people were treated and already released from a hospital. A policeman and army colonel were also killed, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The blast Saturday came just days after hundreds of rebels left the last opposition-held neighborhood of Homs with their families as part of a local truce to transfer the area back to government control. Trucks carrying aid reportedly entered the area of the city Saturday as part of the agreement.
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The blast was reported to have occurred near a hospital in the Zahra neighborhood of Homs. Shortly after the TNT-filled car exploded, a gas cylinder blew up in a nearby shop and wounded several policemen. While it was unclear who was responsible for the blast, Sunni militant groups have regularly carried out similar bombings.
Elsewhere in Syria, Russian airstrikes reportedly hit a Syrian opposition-held town in the north, resulting in a number of deaths. Offering contradictory death toll reports, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 10 people were killed, while the anti-government Local Coordination Committees said four people were killed. Russia entered the war in Syria in late September to help bolster the weakening hold of Syrian President Bashar Assad over the country. Many of its airstrikes have targeted rebel groups fighting Assad, some of which are supported by the U.S. and other Western countries.
Moscow has been a strong backer of the embattled Syrian leader since war broke out in the country more than four years ago. The civil war has resulted in more than 250,000 deaths, and about half of the country has been displaced.