Isil suicide bombers kill more than 180 in southern Syria in one of deadliest days of war

More than 180 people have been killed in a series of co-ordinated Islamic State suicide bombings in southern Syria, in one of the deadliest assaults of the seven-year civil war. 

Some 183 people including 89 civilians died in attacks across Sweida city on Wednesday, the bloodiest of which saw a motorcycle bomber strike a busy vegetable market at morning rush hour.

State media Sana published images of the aftermath, showing the bodies of victims lying in the middle of the road among fruit that had spilled out of cartons.

Sweida, located halfway between Damascus and Amman, is mostly under the control of the government and while Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has a presence on the outskirts, attacks by the group are rare.

"Three bombers with explosive belts targeted Sweida city alone, while the other blasts hit villages to the north and east," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Two others were killed before they could detonate their explosives. 

Later on, a fourth suicide attack hit the city.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Observatory, said the jihadists then followed up with further attacks, seizing three of the seven villages they had targeted.

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In a statement on the Telegram messaging app, Isil said "soldiers of the caliphate" attacked security positions and government targets in Sweida city before detonating their explosive belts.

The regime retaliated with a series of air strikes on Isil positions.

The jihadists appear to be looking to exploit a power vacuum left by overstretched regime forces.

President Bashar al-Assad’s troops have been busy fighting rebel groups in the neighbouring Deraa province, which fell to the regime earlier this month. 

The army is now closing in on a patch of territory in Deraa held by jihadist group Jaish Khaled bin al-Walid, which has pledged allegiance to Isil.

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