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As Negotiators Talk Peace In Geneva, Bombings Kill At Least 32 In Syrian City

A member of the Syrian government forces mans a checkpoint in Homs, the country's third-largest city, on Saturday.
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A member of the Syrian government forces mans a checkpoint in Homs, the country's third-largest city, on Saturday.

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

A cluster of coordinated suicide attacks have claimed the lives of at least 32 people in the major Syrian city of Homs. The bombings, which targeted two separate security offices in the largely government-held city, killed one senior Syrian intelligence official and left another critically injured.

Reports from Syria's official state news agency SANA do not specify how many of the dead were civilians and how many were security forces. The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights places the death toll higher, saying at least 42 Syrian security members were killed in the attacks.

Syrian state media report that Hassan Daeboul, head of the local Military Intelligence branch, was killed and State Security Branch chief Ibrahim Darwish was seriously wounded in the blasts, according to The Associated Press.

The BBC reports the jihadi militant coalition Tahrir al-Sham, "known as the Nusra Front until it broke off formal ties with al-Qaeda last July," claimed responsibility for Saturday's bombings. The group's statement said five of its fighters took part in the attacks on security buildings in Homs' Ghouta and Mahatta neighborhoods, CNN says.

"Both areas are heavily guarded by the state police and also military so it was a really big and organised twin attack," Al-Jazeera's Andrew Simmons reports from the Turkish border city of Gaziantep.

Reuters reports Syria responded with airstrikes against a rebel-held enclave in Homs. "Besieged by Syrian soldiers and militiamen, [the rebel-held area] al-Waer has gone four months without a United Nations aid delivery," The Washington Post says.

The violence comes just a day after an Islamic State-claimed car bomb killed at least 34 people in the town of al-Bab, which was recently taken back from ISIS by Turkish-backed rebels.

The spate of killings in Syria are happening precisely as negotiators from President Bashar Assad's regime and opposition forces settle into renewed U.N.-led peace talks in Geneva. Those negotiations, which aim to shore up a shaky cease-fire brokered by Turkey and Russia, do not include the two militant groups that leveled the attacks on Friday and Saturday.

U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura said Saturday he is not surprised by the violence.

"Every time we have talks, or negotiations, there is always someone who tries to spoil," de Mistura told reporters, according to Reuters. "I am expecting [it]."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.

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