Civilian districts loyal to the regime of Bashar Al-Asad in Homs have been subjected to bombings in the past two years; a matter which the Syrian regime’s security and media have blamed on the armed opposition. However, developments of this position in the past few weeks have clearly indicated that groups loyal to the regime have participated in the bombings in order to take advantage of the state of instability.
On 28/2/2013, the New Ikrimah district loyal to the regime was subjected to a car explosion, killing a civilian and leaving 24 others injured, in addition to great material losses to the houses and cars in the area. The explosion took place close to the Sahara Complex and the Ghaliah Farhat school.
The Ikrimah district loyal to the regime was subjected to two bombs on 1/10/2013, targeting a student gathering which killed 54, among them 47 children. Loyalists of the regime blamed opposition forces.
And on 7/12/2013, a car exploded in the al-Zahraa district loyal to the regime in Homs, which led to the death and injury of a number of civilians.
On 29/4/2014, al-Zahraa-al-Abasiah, loyal to the regime, was also subjected to a car explosion which killed 150 people according to sources of the Syrian regime.
And on 21/1/2015, five were killed and 35 injured in a car explosion which took place in the same district according to the Syrian regime television, placing the blame on the armed opposition once again.
On 1/4/2015, the Arman district in Homs was subjected to a car explosion, killing a child and injuring seven according to regime sources.
And as with all car explosion incidents Syria has witnessed in the past few years, neither side has claimed responsibility for the operations, nor have any independent investigations been carried out to pinpoint the perpetrators.
It is of the Syrian regime’s habit to accuse the armed opposition of perpetrating such acts and of taking advantage of them in the largest way possible in both local media and in international forums. However, developments of the past few weeks, and clashes between the Security forces (the military security and air force intelligence) and the army on one hand, and the so called “army of National Defence” militia in al-Zahraa district on the other hand, have exposed unprecedented accusations between regime-loyal sides surrounding the car explosions in Homs, as well as kidnappings in al-Zahraa and Arman districts and even the attempted assassination of the Governor of Homs, Talal Barazi.
Under the title of “Homs Car Explosions to the Fore once again”, media personality and regime loyalist Rafeeq Lutf mentioned on his facebook page that “the clashes which have taken place and which are currently taking place between the Syrian army and the traitors and thieves of the army of national defence, and which have led to the death of a number of traitors and the injury of champions of the Syrian army, is of no secret to the noble people of Homs”.
Lutf also added: “unfortunately- and it can no longer be hidden-, it has been confirmed that groups which are part of the national defence army have been behind the car explosions in areas in which there are gold shops in order to steal from them during the chaos. They have also been kidnaping people from al-Zahraa and Arman districts and calling for hefty ransoms from the families of those kidnapped. These groups are: the Abu Ali Salamah group, Ayham Shabib’s group and al-Mayhoub Ibn Ja’far group. The clashes are ongoing till now.”
Reliable sources have relayed that clashes between militias of the “national defence” and army forces have been taking place in Homs. Signs, even accusations have come to the fore of the Syrian regime being behind the explosions in Homs in order to collapse the truce made with al-Wa’ar. It was made clear afterwards that those behind the explosions were leaders of the militias mentioned above.
It was certainly noted that whenever negotiations between the people of al-Wa’ar and officers of the Syrian regime reached an advanced stage, bombings and car explosions would take place in districts loyal to the regime such as al-Nuzha, Ikrimah and al-Zahraa. Certainly, regime loyalists expressed doubts on how the security grip and military checkpoints as well as the checkpoints of the “national defence army” were overcome. Through their investigations, the security services were able to follow the signs and come to the conclusion that the bombings were deliberate and intended to sabotage agreements with the opposition district of al-Wa’ar. Despite this, and despite the fact that militias of the national defence army had carried out the car bombings, regime forces turned a blind eye and bombed al-Wa’ar, dropping explosive barrels several times, killing tens of civilians, and halting the negotiations for several weeks.
However, the recent crisis which has emerged (due to salaries and benefits of the militias of the national defence army not being paid) has revealed much of what was being hidden, to the extent that the reaction among regime loyalists has been- in their own words- to accuse “those responsible for the safety of Ikrimah, Zahraa and Nuzha as traitors that have sold their conscience in return for money, to allow the bombings to take place and to rip up the negotiation process with Al-Wa’ar.”
At the Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC), we call upon human rights organisations to document the statements being made by those responsible in the Syrian regime regarding the role of these militias in the abovementioned explosions, as well as the statements of regime media, in order to use them in investigations into the explosion crimes committed over the past few years, and to know the names of those behind them so that these individuals cannot escape from justice or seek refuge in donor countries. SHRC also calls upon international organisations to categorise the militias of the national defence army and the “Ba’ath brigades” as terrorist organisations, especially since they have committed a great number of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including a number of car explosions, kidnapping operations, the raping of women and the looting of money in different ways.