University students in Homs were the target of a terror attack that left 15 people dead and at least 50 injured, according to a priest based in the city when the blast took place.
The car bomb exploded in a busy street in the centre of Homs – the third largest city in Syria – on Wednesday around midday.
Jesuit priest Father Ziad Hilal, who runs aid centres supported by Aid to the Church in Need, told the Catholic charity that Christians were among the victims even though al-Hadara Street, where the attack took place, is in a predominantly Alawite Muslim area.
According to Fr Hilal, those who planted the explosive were targeting the city’s youths.
He said: “Most of them were students at the university, young people who had not left the city.
“So what sort of message does this attack send out now? I believe they were deliberately targeted.”
Fr Hilal said no one had taken responsibility for the bomb and expressed sympathy for those who lost love ones in the blast.
He said: “The attack was staged very close to our church and our aid centre. We do not know who was behind it, but it is a tragedy. The pictures of the attack are horrifying.
“We are visiting the families of the victims and trying to comfort them. But what can anyone say in such a situation? We ourselves are all deeply saddened and devastated.”
Fr Hilal went on to appeal for prayers: “I call on all people, and especially on the benefactors of ACN, to pray for Syria and in particular for the victims of this terrible attack and their families.”
He added that he was particularly dismayed at the lack of coverage in the world’s media.
Fr Hilal said: “Where is the reaction in the rest of the world? After the attacks in Paris all eyes were on France. But here?
“As far as I am aware, there has not been any reaction by anybody. Not a word. Only silence. Syria and the daily sufferings of its people are forgotten.”
Homs is strategically important and has been fought over by government and opposition forces.
Since 2014 it has been under the control of the Syrian government, but continues to be the target of terror attacks.
In October 2014, more than 50 people died in a double bomb blast.
Over the past year a large proportion of the inhabitants of the city have fled their homes, among them more than 80,000 Christians.
The latest bombing came seven days into a 10-day ceasefire.
Aid to the Church in Need is supporting Fr Hilal in his humanitarian work for people in Homs and its surrounding area.
Aid centres run by the Jesuit priest have been distributing food, clothing and basic hygiene items to thousands of victims, regardless of their religion or political affiliation.
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)