February 25, 2017 / 8:14 PM / 3 years ago

Syrian opposition suggests security forces could have been behind Homs attack

GENEVA (Reuters) - The Syrian opposition delegation attending peace talks in Geneva condemned an attack by suicide bombers that killed security forces in Homs on Saturday, while suggesting that only people with security clearances could get close to the area.

Head of the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC) opposition group Nasr al-Hariri addresses the media aside of the Intra-Syria peace talks in Geneva, Switzerland, February 25, 2017. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

The attackers stormed two Syrian security offices in Homs, killing dozens with gunfire and explosions, including a senior officer, and prompting airstrikes against the last rebel-held enclave in the western city. [nL8N1GA03U]

“We condemn all terrorist acts done by all terrorist groups. And if the Homs operation specifically is one of those terrorist operations, by one of those terrorist groups, it is clear by what I say,” lead opposition negotiator Nasr al-Hariri told reporters in Geneva.

“They just want to remain in power. The regime is trying to block the negotiations,” he added, saying he would not walk away from the U.N.-mediated talks.

The jihadist rebel alliance Tahrir al-Sham, which opposes the talks despite having fought alongside factions that are represented there, said that five suicide bombers had carried out the attack. It celebrated with the words “thanks be to God” but stopped short of explicitly claiming responsibility.

Colonel Fateh Hassoun, another member of the opposition negotiating team in Geneva, suggested that security forces with access could have been behind the attack which led to government air strikes.

“The area where this happened is very secure, which is always monitored. And no security operation can happen there unless it is facilitated through other security forces who have security access and the infiltration in those areas,” he said.

Armed groups don’t have access to that area, except for al-Waer district, he said.

“We can honestly consider what happened today is liquidation by the regime, by people who are wanted in international courts. At the top of them, the brigadier general who was killed today, is accused in the (Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq) al-Hariri case, in addition to detainees who were in the custody of the state,” Hassoun said.

“What happened today is an operation. The regime has retaliated through another action against civilians besieged for the past 3.5 years, and this is to send a message to the people, societies and the world that he is fighting terrorism.”

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Yara Abi Nader; writing by John Irish; Editing by Greg Mahlich

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