At least 32 people killed - including army’s top spy - after brazen attacks on security offices in third-largest city.
A series of suicide attacks on military installations in Syria’s government-held city of Homs have killed at least 32 people, including the army’s intelligence chief - a close confidante of President Bashar al-Assad.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday that loud explosions and gunfire were heard following the assault in the western city.
"There were at least six attackers and several of them blew themselves up near the headquarters of state security and military intelligence," Syrian Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP news agency.
Bombers engaged in prolonged gun battles with intelligence officers before detonating their explosive vests.
The governor of Homs province, Talal Barzani, said there were three blasts in total killing 32 people and wounding more than 20 others.
The Syrian Observatory said 42 people had been killed.
The attacks hit the heavily guarded Ghouta and Mahatta neighbourhoods and security forces locked down the city centre.
Syrian state television said the army’s intelligence chief General Hassan Daabul died and it paid tribute to the "martyrs" in Saturday’s bombings.
A witness is quoted as saying a suicide bomber actually made it into Daabul’s office and detonated himself.
Brigadier Ibrahim Darwish, head of the State Security Branch, was also critically wounded, state-affiliated al-Ikhbariya TV reported.
Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Gaziantep on the Turkey-Syria border, said it was unclear how the assailants could have pulled off such an audacious assault.
"Both areas are heavily guarded by the state police and also military so it was a really big and organised twin attack," said Simmons.
The rebel alliance known as Tahrir al-Sham is believed to have carried out the attack.
It was formed earlier this year from several groups including Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, which was al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch until it broke formal allegiance in 2016.
Since it was formed, Tahrir al-Sham has fought other rebel groups, including some that fight under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, as well as a faction linked to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in northwest Syria.
Homs has been under the full control of the government since May 2014 when rebels withdrew from the city centre under a UN-brokered truce.
But the city has seen repeated bombings since then. Twin attacks killed 64 people early last year.
The attacks come as peace negotiators continue talks for the second day in Geneva over Syria’s six-year-old civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Like its rival ISIL, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham is not party to a ceasefire between government forces and opposition groups taking part in the Geneva talks.