The Latest: Russia: attacks show how ‘fragile’ Syria remains – Washington Post

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DAMASCUS, Syria — The Latest on a violent day in the Middle East, with deadly bombings in Syria and Yemen and the start of an Iraqi government offensive to retake the city of Fallujah from the Islamic State group (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

Iraq’s Prime Minister has hailed “big successes” by troops, hours after launching a military operation to recapture the Islamic State-held city of Fallujah.

Wearing the black uniform of Iraq’s counter-terrorism forces, Haider al-Abadi visited Fallujah Operation Command Monday morning and met with commanders.

He says the offensive achieved “more than what was planned for,” without elaborating on the operation.

He says that the offensive was planned to start more than two months ago, but was delayed due to political infighting and the deteriorating security situation inside Baghdad.

Backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and paramilitary troops, Iraqi government forces launched the long-awaited military offensive on Fallujah late Sunday night. The city, located about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, has been under the militants’ control since January 2014.

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2.00 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman says the increase in militant attacks and bombings in Syria, such as the explosions that rocked Syrian government strongholds, “once again demonstrates how fragile the situation in Syria is.”

Dmitry Peskov, speaking Monday to journalists in Moscow, said the situation “demonstrates the need to continue vigorous steps to continue the negotiation process.”

Asked whether Russia would reconsider its decision to scale back the size of its military contingent in Syria, the spokesman pointed to Putin’s statement that Russia’s bases in Syria allow for “a very flexible approach” to the number of Russian troops deployed in Syria.

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12:45 p.m.

A news agency linked with the Islamic State group says the group’s militants were behind the multiple attacks on civilian gatherings in two Syrian coastal cities.

Monday’s back-to-back bombings occurred in the cities of Tartus, and Jableh, both government strongholds that also house Russian military bases.

State media said the explosions killed at least 65 people, most of them in bus stations in the two cities, and outside a hospital and the electricity company in Jableh.

The one-sentence report by the IS-linked Aamaq news agency offered no details. The agency regularly carries the group’s news and claims.

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12 p.m.

Syrian state TV says at least 65 people were killed in a series of explosions, including suicide bombings, in the coastal cities of Tartus and Jableh, strongholds of President Bashar Assad.

The TV reports said at least one suicide bomber followed by a car bomb blew up minutes apart in a packed bus station in Tartus. More than 20 were killed and many injured in the bombings, an Interior Ministry official told the channel.

Separately, Syria’s SANA state news agency and the state TV said four explosions rocked Jableh, south of Latakia city. The attacks included three rockets, and a suicide bomber at a city hospital, the state media said.

The attacks are a rare occurrence in the normally quiet and pro-government cities. Russia keeps a naval base in Tartus and an air base in Latakia province. Insurgents maintain a presence in rural Latakia.

–Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria

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11:45 a.m.

Syrian state TV says more than 20 people have been killed in multiple attacks in the coastal cities of Tartus and Jableh, strongholds of President Bashar Assad.

The TV report Monday said at least one suicide bomber on foot followed by a car bomber attacked a packed bus station in Tartus. An Interior Ministry official says more than 20 were killed and many injured.

Separately, Syria news agency SANA said three rockets were launched into Jableh, which lies 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of Latakia city, landing in a bus station, near the town’s entrance.

The rare attacks occurred in the normally quiet pro-government coastal areas where Russia keeps a naval base in Tartus and an air base in Latakia province. Insurgents maintain a presence in rural Latakia.

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11:15 a.m.

Officials say government forces have pushed Islamic State militants from some agricultural areas outside the city of Fallujah at the start of a military offensive aimed at recapturing the city from the Islamic State group.

Police 1st Lt. Ahmed Mahdi Salih said Monday that the ground fighting is taking place around the town of Garma, east of Fallujah, which is considered the main supply line to the militants. IS holds the center of Garma and some areas on its outskirts.

Col. Mahmoud al-Mardhi, who is in charge of paramilitary forces, says his troops recaptured at least three agricultural areas outside Garma.

Backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and paramilitary troops, Iraqi government forces launched the long-awaited military offensive on Fallujah late Sunday night.

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10:30 a.m.

Yemeni security officials say that a pair of suicide bombers killed at least 45 people in the southern city of Aden.

The officials said Monday that the two bombers targeted young men seeking to join the army. One suicide car bomber targeted a line outside an army recruitment center, killing at least 20. A second bomber on foot detonated his explosive vest among a group of recruits waiting outside the home of an army commander, killing at least 25.

The Yemeni officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Yemen’s conflict pits the internationally recognized government against Shiite rebels who control the capital, Saana, and are allied with a former president. The country also contains active al-Qaida and Islamic State group affiliates.

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The Latest: Russia: attacks show how ‘fragile’ Syria remains – Washington Post