Trouble in Assad’s Alawite heartland as bombs hit Latakia and anti-government protests break out

The Telegraph reports: Rebels launched a deadly rocket attack on Latakia, the coastal heartland of President Bashar al-Assad, on Thursday as part of a milestone attempt to overrun the government’s most precious territories.

Islamist fighters have forced government troops to the very edge of Sahl al-Ghab, a fertile plain sitting at the base of the mountains where Mr Assad’s ancestral village of Qardaha is located.

Two people were killed and 14 injured in Thursday’s rocket attack, which hit Latakia’s city centre and waterfront. State television ran footage of smoke billowing out of charred vehicles, apparently from the site of the explosions.

The area is home to Syria’s Alawites, an esoteric Muslim minority sect from which a disproportionate chunk of the state apparatus, including the Assad family, hails.

Rebel fighters from the Army of Conquest, an umbrella group of Islamist factions including the dominant Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, are now eyeing the nearby town of Joreen as an entrance point to Latakia’s mountains. [Continue reading…]

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