BEIRUT (AP) -- A series of rare explosions including suicide bombings rocked coastal government strongholds in Syria Monday, killing at least 78 people and wounding dozens more, state media and opposition activists said. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The deadly blasts in the normally quiet pro-government cities of Tartus and Jableh were the first to target civilians in those areas in the course of Syria's civil war, now in its sixth year. They marked an escalation in the conflict as the U.N. Syria envoy struggles to restart peace talks.
The TV reports said at least one suicide bomber followed by a car-laden with explosives tore through a packed bus station in Tartus, minutes apart. More than 20 were killed and many injured in the bombings, an Interior Ministry official told the channel.
Separately, Syria's SANA news agency reported that four explosions rocked Jableh, south of Latakia city. The attacks included three rockets, and a suicide bomber at a city hospital, the state media said.
Russia keeps a naval base in Tartus and an air base in Latakia province. Insurgents maintain a presence in rural Latakia.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition monitoring group based in Britain, put the death toll at more than 100. It said there were seven explosions that ripped through both locations simultaneously: Four in Jableh, including three suicide bombings and one car bomb, and four in Tartus, including two suicide bombers and one car bomb.
In Jableh, dozens were killed when a car bomb went off near a bus station, followed by a suicide bomber who detonated his explosive belt inside the station. Meanwhile, two men blew themselves up at the electricity company and outside the emergency entrance of a city hospital. Dozens more were killed in Tartus when a car bomb went off in the bus station, and then two men blew themselves up when people gathered, according to the Observatory.
"We will not be deterred ... we will use everything we have to fight the terrorists," said Syrian Cabinet minister Omran al-Zoubi on Syrian TV.
A news agency linked with the Islamic State group said the group's militants were behind the multiple attacks.
The one-sentence report by the IS-linked Aamaq news agency, which routinely carries the group's news and claims, offered no details.