Pope Francis prays to 'convert hearts' of ISIS extremists

Pope Francis greeting the faithful after the weekly general audience in St Peter's Square, Vatican City, on May 25, 2016.
Pope Francis greeting the faithful after the weekly general audience in St Peter's Square, Vatican City, on May 25, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis on Wednesday (May 25) asked God to "convert the hearts of those who sow death and destruction" following a series of deadly attacks by the Islamic State group (ISIS) in Syria.

During his weekly audience in St Peter's Square, the pontiff prayed for "eternal rest to the victims" and "consolation to their relatives" after suicide attacks in the regime's coastal heartland that killed more than 150 people on Monday.

Francis said almost all the victims of the seven explosions targeting bus stations, hospitals and other civilian sites in the seaside cities of Jableh and Tartus were "unarmed civilians". Eight of them were children.

More than 300 people were wounded in the attacks on strongholds of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

ISIS claimed the blasts in a statement, saying they were in retaliation for Syrian regime and Russian air strikes against militants.