Bombs, rockets tear through Syrian regime strongholds

DAMASCUS, Syria -- A series of coordinated explosions including suicide bombings rocked two normally quiet coastal strongholds of Syrian President Bashar Assad Monday, killing more than 80 people and wounding 200 others, state media and opposition activists said.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement posted online, saying they targeted members of the minority Alawite sect of Shiite Islam, to which Assad himself belongs.

Syria's SANA news agency reported that four explosions struck Jableh, near Latakia. The attacks included a suicide bombing at the emergency entrance of the Jableh national hospital, state media said.

Jableh News Network, an opposition activist media group, said that one of those killed at the hospital was a nurse, Huda al-Houshi.

Shortly afterward, TV reports and residents said suicide bombers followed by a car-laden with explosives tore through a packed bus station and petrol station in Tartus, minutes apart. More than 33 were killed and many injured in the bombings.

The explosions caused panic and took people by surprise.

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Both towns have largely avoided major bloodshed during Syria's five-year-old civil war, which pits Assad and his allies Russia, Iran and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia against myriad rebel factions, including Islamic extremist groups ISIS and al Qaeda's affiliate the Nusra Front.

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.

The Mediterranean coastal region of Latakia is the heartland of the regime, notes CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer.

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It's where President Assad comes from, and remains the very center of his support base.

Until now, it had remained safe enough that on Palmer's last visit to the area, she found Syrians on the beach, relaxing and convinced they were secure enough in the area to forget -- at least for a while -- that their country is at war.

The same bus station was attacked in Jableh in 2012, but Monday's bombings in Tartus were the first to hit the city since the war began as an uprising against Assad's rule in 2011.