Car bomb kills four in Assad’s ancestral town

It was the first explosion to target the ancestral town of President Bashar al-Assad in nearly four year conflict

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At least four people were killed on Saturday when a car bomb exploded in the western Syrian town of Qardaha, the ancestral town of President Bashar al-Assad, state media said.

The bomb, which went off in a hospital car park, is considered to be the first explosion to target Qardaha, in Latakia province, in nearly four year of civil war.

However, the outskirts of Qardaha have previously come under rebel rocket fire.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was unclear whether the explosion had been caused by a car bomb or by rocket fire.

The explosion "killed four people -- a nurse, a hospital employee and two soldiers," said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

Armed groups fighting government forces regard Qardaha, a town of 5,000 nestled in pine-clad hilltops overlooking the coastal city of Latakia, as a top prize.

They have launched several offensives in the past few years with an objective of reaching Qardaha, Assad's stronghold and burial place of his late father Hafez.

In 2013 they launched an offensive and seized several villages and killed more than 200 people. They have managed to get as close as 20 km (12 miles) to Qardaha before being pushed back.

Assad's clan has ruled Syria with an iron fist for more than 40 years.

Syria's war has killed more than 210,000 people, and forced half the population to flee their homes.

(With AFP and Reuters)