The Latest: IS fighters in Syria's Homs target gas pipeline

The Latest: IS fighters in Syria's Homs target gas pipeline

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BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the developments in the Syrian conflict (all times local):

8:15 p.m.

Syrian State News Agency SANA is reporting that Islamic State militants in the country's central province of Homs have lobbed mortars at natural gas pipelines, putting some production lines out of service.

Syrian Minister of Electricity Mohammad Zuheir Kharboutli told State TV the attack on the southern factory will reduce its capacity to generate power by 65 percent. The Oil Minister Ali Ghanim said the factory feeds the national grid with 6.6 million cubic meters a day but he added maintenance was underway to restore full operations.

Islamic State militants have been battling government troops around the gas lines in Homs since December.

The attacks came hours after a separate attack in Homs city against security offices, which were claimed by al-Qaida-linked insurgents.


8 p.m.

A Syrian opposition official says rebel forces are leading the fight against terrorism in Syria as representatives of the warring parties meet in Geneva in a fresh quest for a political solution to the conflict.

Speaking to reporters in Switzerland Friday, Nassr al-Hariri dismissed the notion the international community saw the Syrian government and its forces as the most fit to counter terrorism.

"We are the ones who place the priority on countering terrorism in our agenda," he said, pointing to the victory against IS by Turkey-backed opposition forces.

He said that victory came as government forces dropped barrel bombs and internationally-banned weapons in Syria.

The Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad has long sought to present itself as a bulwark against Islamist extremism.

Hariri spoke after a meeting with U.N. Envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura, who is trying to negotiate a political transition in Syria.

"When the international envoy facilitates any political process, he shouldn't listen to this side or the other, he should implement the international resolutions," said Hariri, describing the meeting with the envoy as "positive."

The two sides, who differ on how power should be distributed during a transition period and disagree on the fate of Assad, have yet to tackle substantive issues in Geneva.


6:45 p.m.

Turkey's chief of military staff says Turkey has "achieved the goals" it set for its military operation in northern Syria.

Gen. Hulusi Akar made the comment on Friday during a visit to the border with Syria, after Turkish troops and Turkey-backed opposition forces captured the town of al-Bab from Islamic State militants.

He did not say, however, if Turkey would end its operations in northern Syria or if it would move on to liberate other areas.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other government leaders have spoken of plans to move the Turkish forces toward the town of Manbij that is held by U.S.-backed forces that include Syrian Kurdish fighters in a bid to oust them from the area. Turkish leaders have also suggested that Turkish troops could take part in operations to liberate the Islamic State group's stronghold in Raqqa.

Akar said that Turkey would provide "every kind of support" to help life in al-Bab return to normal and for the local population to return to their homes.


3:05 p.m.

Syria's ambassador to the United Nations says his delegation is considering the details of an unspecified "paper" presented by the U.N. envoy for Syria, as peace talks resumed in Geneva aimed at ending the country's nearly six-year.

Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari emerged from a meeting with U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura saying that their discussion on Friday focused mainly on the format of future meetings. Ja'afari did not take questions from a throng of reporters as he left the U.N. compound in Geneva.

He said his delegation would study the document and would reply at the next meeting. He did not say when that next meeting would be.

In brief comments to reporters, de Mistura said the discussions had been "about the future of Syria, about peace."


3 p.m.

Syrian opposition activists say a second car bomb has exploded in a town just captured from Islamic State group militants by Turkish troops and Syrian fighters, leaving at least eight people dead.

The Aleppo Media Center and Thiqa News agency, media platforms operated by activists, reported the second explosion Friday in Sousian village, about eight kilometers (five miles) north of al-Bab.

An earlier explosion in the same village killed at least 60, most of them civilians lining up to return to the town after IS retreated.

Al-Bab was captured by the Turkish troops and Syrian fighters backed by Ankara on Thursday, after more than two months of intense fighting.

A Turkish military statement Friday says the Turkish troops and Syrian forces it backs are now in control of all neighborhoods of al-Bab but that efforts to clear it of mines and explosives are continuing. Earlier on Friday, two Turkish soldiers were killed in an explosion near the IS-held town of Tadif, south of al-Bab.


2:20 p.m.

The U.N. envoy for Syria has kicked off his second day of meetings in Geneva aimed at reaching a political solution to end the country's devastating civil war.

Staffan de Mistura on Friday hosted a delegation from the government of President Bashar Assad and is hammering out a procedure for the talks that could go on for days. De Mistura is meeting with the sides separately and is to hold talks with an opposition delegation on Friday afternoon.

U.N. spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci is cautioning that "this process is in its very early days" and not to expect fast results. She says de Mistura is "seeking to facilitate a process, and this requires some delicate handling."

On Thursday, the two sides met face-to-face for the first time in three years under U.N. mediation.


1:55 p.m.

Turkey's state news agency Andadolu says the death toll from a car bomb near the town of al-Bab, just captured from Islamic State militants in northern Syria, has risen to 60. Most of the victims were civilians.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, meanwhile, says a separate attack south al-Bab killed two Turkish soldiers.

Friday's attacks come a day after the town was taken by Turkish forces and Syrian opposition fighters from Islamic State militants. IS militants withdrew from the town, but they still control areas around it.

In the first attack, a suicide car bomb struck outside a security office in Sousian village, north of al-Bab, killing civilians lining up seeking permits to return home. Yildrim says at least six Turkey-backed fighters were killed in that bombing.

The second attack took place near Tadif, a town still controlled by IS south of al-Bab. The Turkish military said the soldiers were killed when an improvised explosive device went off but Yildrim called it a suicide attack that happened as the soldiers were on a road patrol. Three other Turkish soldiers were wounded.

The deaths raise the death toll of Turkish soldiers in northern Syria since August to 70.


10:50 a.m.

Turkey's news agency says a car bomb north of a town just captured by Turkish forces and Syrian opposition fighters from Islamic State militants has killed at least 35 people.

Anadolu news agency says the explosion on Friday killed civilians and Syrian opposition fighters in Sousian village, north of the town of al-Bab.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the bombing struck near a security post in the village. The Syrian opposition-run Qasioun news agency put the death toll at 45.

The report says the car bomb hit outside a security office where civilians had gathered seeking permission to return to al-Bab.

Al-Bab was captured on Thursday, after more than two months of fighting with IS militants who withdrew from the town but still control areas around it.

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