Triple bombings in northeastern town in Syria kill 15

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BEIRUT (AP) — Triple car bombs exploded in a town in northeastern Syria's predominantly Kurdish province of Hassakeh on Thursday, killing 15 civilians and wounding dozens more, Syria's state-run news agency said.

It said one of the explosions took place near a medical center and another at a crowded market in the town of Tal Tamr, adding that the vehicles were packed with large amounts of explosives and significantly damaged shops and businesses.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 12 people were killed in the bombings, adding that the death toll was likely to rise because of the large number of wounded and missing.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said the exploding vehicles were likely tankers, causing the massive explosions.

Tal Tamr is an overwhelmingly Kurdish town where the main Kurdish fighting force in Syria — People's Protection Units, or YPG — is in control. The group is the most effective fighting force against the Islamic State group, although there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks.

Earlier Thursday, the Islamic State group retook a strategically important town in the central province of Homs from government forces, activists said.

The government had recaptured the town of Mheen and surrounding villages from the extremists two weeks ago as part of a general offensive to secure the highway connecting Damascus to the country's northwest.

The loss deals a setback to the Syrian army's strategy to fortify the corridor with support from Russian airpower.

The Observatory said that fighting was underway on Thursday between IS militants and government forces with their allied militias outside of Mheen.

Islamic State media outlets reported earlier that the group's fighters had seized the hills overlooking the town on Wednesday night.

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