BEIRUT — In synchronized attacks, insurgents stormed into heavily guarded security offices in Syria’s central Homs city, clashed with troops and then blew themselves up, killing a senior officer and at least 31 others, state media and officials reported.

The swift, high-profile attacks against the Military Intelligence and State Security offices, among Syria’s most powerful, were claimed by an al-Qaida-linked insurgent coalition known as the Levant Liberation Committee. A Syrian lawmaker on a state-affiliated TV station called it a “heavy blow” to Syria’s security apparatuses.

The attacks came as Syrian government and opposition delegates meet in Geneva in U.N.-mediated talks aimed at building momentum toward peace despite low expectations of a breakthrough. The U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura called the attacks “tragic.”

“Every time we had talks or a negotiation, there was always someone who was trying to spoil it. We were expecting that,” he said.

Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar al-Ja’afari, who leads Damascus’ delegation to Geneva, said the attacks were a message from the “sponsors of terrorism” to the peace talks.

Al-Ja’afari said the attacks will not go unanswered.

No footage or pictures emerged from the typically tightly-secured scene of the attacks in the city center. Activists said the city was on high alert after the attacks, with government troops blocking roads and forcing shops to close.

The government responded with an intense airstrike campaign against the only neighborhood on the city’s outskirts still under opposition control and other parts of rural Homs.

The government regained control of the city of Homs – one of the first to rise against President Bashar Assad – in 2015. But al-Waer neighborhood remained in rebel hands. Settlement negotiations to evacuate it have repeatedly faltered.

The attack early Saturday was the most high-profile in a city that has been the scene of repeated suicide attacks since the government regained control. The head of Military Intelligence services Maj. Gen Hassan Daeboul, who was killed in Saturday’s attack, had been transferred from the capital to Homs last year to address security failures in the city, according to local media reports at the time.

Daeboul was killed by one of the suicide bombers, according to Syrian State News Agency SANA.

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