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180 civilians killed in a series of attacks by the Islamic State group -

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MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Islamic state militants have killed over 180 people in a series of deadly attacks on civilians across the Middle East.

Approximately 140 people were killed in coordinated blasts in regime-held towns on the Syrian coast, while over 40 people were blown up by a car bomb in southern Yemen.

Last week, ISIS claimed responsibility for killing more than 100 Iraqis in similar attacks.

Analysts fear that as the organization loses ground, these kinds of large-scale attacks on civilians are only going to become more common.

Middle East correspondent Sophie McNeill reports.

(Sound of sirens)

SOPHIE MCNEILL: Within about half an hour, more than 140 civilians were killed in the streets of Jableh and Tartous on Syria's Mediterranean coast.

In one of the four blasts, a suicide attacker walked into a hospital emergency department and blew themselves up.

Another series of explosions tore apart a bus station.

(Bystander speaking in Arabic)

"People were running away, this was at 10am," this man says. The fourth explosion took place near the supermarket.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says there were at least five suicide bombers and two devices planted in cars.

The Islamic State militant group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying it was targeting members of President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite minority.

(Sound of crowd)

The Sunni extremist group says it was also behind a suicide car bombing in the Yemeni city of Aden today. More than 40 men were killed as they queued outside an army recruitment post.

RENAD MANSOUR: Well the Islamic State obviously once it stops feeling like a state, it's going to go back to what it's used to, what's its good at, which is these kind of attacks.

SOPHIE MCNEILL: Renad Mansour is a fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. He says the Islamic State has had to change its tactics after suffering serious battlefield defeats in recent months.

RENAD MANSOUR: Initially, they never really wanted to do this because they wanted to act as if they were a state, and of course their idea was, "We invade like states do, we conquer," like they did in Mosul and like they did in Raqqa in Syria, and many of the other cities that they took over.

No that's becoming less feasible as I mentioned because of the setback they have had militarily. They're having to resort back to the asymmetrical tactics that actually previous organization, Al Qaeda in Iraq, which was the predecessor, these were the tactics that they used when they were very much just an organization seeking to instil fear and gain support in Iraq.

SOPHIE MCNEILL: Hassan Hassan is a resident fellow with Chatham House and the author of ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror.

He thinks the group is entering a new and dangerous phase as it fights to stay relevant.

HASSAN HASSAN: ISIS will try and do two things: infiltrate strongholds and target civilians, soft targets.

I think this is the new focus for ISIS. And the statement by Abu Mohammad Adnani, the spokesperson of ISIS, on Saturday made that very clear when he called on sympathizers across the world, especially in Western countries, to attack civilians.

SOPHIE MCNEILL: Mr Hassan is dismissive of recent suggestions by US officials that ISIS is losing strength.

HASSAN HASSAN: This tendency in media to say that ISIS is going away because its losing territory, I think this is misguided. The surge in suicide bombings and suicide attacks, as we have seen since November last year will continue and probably increase. Not only in quantity but also in quality.

By defeating ISIS on the ground and rolling back its influence, we were bound to see an increase in these suicide operations.

SOPHIE MCNEILL: It's a terrifying predication for the people of the Middle East.

This is Sophie McNeill reporting for AM.