23 killed, 65 injured by shelling in Latakia city, Syria – reports
At least 23 people have been killed by shelling in the Syrian city of Latakia. Another 65 were injured, RIA Novosti reported citing a source in local police.
“Twenty-three people have been killed and at least 65 hospitalized with injuries of varying degrees,” the police source said.
RT’s Lizzie Phelan reports from Syria that the attack took place in a very densely-populated part of Latakia.
“All of the reports so far are suggesting that all of those killed and injured are civilians,” she said.
The missiles that struck the city were most likely fired from Grad multiple-launch rocket system, Phelan added.
“Initial reports suggest that the attack was carried out by the Al-Qaeda branch, Al-Nusra Front,” RT's reporter said.
There are conflicting reports on the number of casualties coming from the port city of Latakia at the moment.
Meanwhile AFP cites Syrian state TV as saying there were "22 people killed and 62 wounded" in the attack on eastern neighborhoods of Latakia.
Earlier state news agency SANA reported 12 people died and 57 were injured when two mortar rounds struck residential areas.
One shell reportedly fell near the city's Tishreen university and another hit a bus stop.
Other reports said that two mortars hit near the university, another claimed that one of the mortars hit near a girls’ high school.
Latakia has been largely spared from violence during the four-and-a-half years of the Syrian civil war. A car bombing killing 10 people in September in Hamam Square were a rare occurrence.
The city is known as a stronghold of the Alawite religious group, to which President Bashar Assad belongs.
The Khmeimim airbase, which Russia uses to launch airstrikes against terrorist targets in Syria, is located outside Latakia city.
The air campaign, staged on the request of President Assad, saw dozens of sorties carried out by Russia planes on a daily basis since September 30.
The Russian Defense Ministry has spoken of panic and desertion amongst Islamic State, Al-Nusra Front members and other jihadist groups, who have seen hundreds of their facilities bombed and raised to the ground.
“There’s a possibility, of course,” that Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front) carried out the Latakia attack, Catherine Shakdam from the Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies in London told RT.
The systematic targeting of terrorists’ bases has damaged their ability to carry out attacks, "therefore, they’re trying to retaliate,” she explained.
According to Shakdam, “radicals” targeted the Alawites as they’re now “going after Assad’s political support system.”
Political analyst, Taleb Ibrahim, told RT that it’s almost certain that Al-Nusra Front is behind the shelling of Latakia.
“It’s not the first time Al-Nusra Front is bombing Latakia or launching missiles at civilians in that city. Moreover, Al-Nusra Front tried to make a lot of explosions by cars inside this city,” he said.
According to the analyst, Al-Nusra Front is the second largest group currently fighting the Syrian government.
It has less manpower than Islamic State, but its troops are much better trained, having experience of fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries, he added.
Dr. Ibrahim also said that the US claims of training so-called moderate rebels in Syria are “only a fable.”
“There are no moderates” is Syria, he stressed, adding that even the Western-backed Free Syrian Army is nothing, but “a military arm of the Muslim Brotherhood,” an Egyptian Islamist organization.