ISIS Bombings Leave at Least 140 Dead in Syrian Cities of Damascus and Homs

Syria bombings
People inspect the site of two bomb blasts in Homs, Syria. The Islamic State militant group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. SANA/Handout via Reuters

The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has said it's responsible for a series of bomb attacks Sunday in the Syrian capital of Damascus and the western city of Homs. In the capital, four blasts killed at least 83 people in the southern suburb of Sayyida Zeinab. Earlier in the day, 57 people died after two car bombs exploded in Homs.

Both attacks focussed on areas that are home to Islamic minority groups, whose beliefs run counter to the extremist Sunni Muslim ideology that ISIS espouses. Sayyida Zeinab is where the grave of the Prophet Muhammad's granddaughter is said to be located, the BBC reports. It is home to the holiest shrine for Shiite Muslims. The Amaq news agency, which is affiliated with ISIS said militants exploded a car bomb as well as explosive belts in the attack.

In Homs, the group focussed on an Alawite district, the branch of religion that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad practices, The Guardian reports. Once held by rebels opposed to Assad, the city is now under government control.

Sunday's bombings coincided with Assad telling reporters that refugees are safe to come home. He added that his government would not persecute these people on their return.

On February 12, world powers agreed on an end to hostilities in Syria, which was due to come into effect on February 19. Attacks against extremist groups such as ISIS and the al-Nusra Front would still continue under the terms of the ceasefire.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that he had reached a "provisional agreement" with Russia on a truce. Moscow, which supports the Assad regime, has been carrying out air strikes against rebel groups fighting the Syrian president.