Car bomb kills at least 39 Syria evacuees

Violet Powell
April 16, 2017

A bomb blast hit a bus convoy waiting to cross into government-held Aleppo in Syria on Saturday, killing and wounding dozens of people evacuated from two Shi'ite villages the day before in a deal between warring sides.The agreement had stalled, leaving thousands of people from both government-besieged and rebel-besieged areas stranded at two transit points on the city's outskirts, before the explosion occurred.Pro-Damascus media outlets said a suicide attacker detonated a auto bomb and killed at least 22 people.

The Syrian Civil Defense in Aleppo province, also known as the White Helmets, said their volunteers pulled at least 100 bodies from the site of the explosion.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported casualties, saying the explosion appeared to be caused by a bomb.

The buses are believed to have been carrying residents evacuated from two Shia villages in northern Syria.

Hours after the explosion, the transfer resumed - as dozens of buses, starting with the wounded, left to their respective destinations.

It was not immediately clear if rebels were killed in the blast.

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A pro-opposition activist said insurgents blamed the delay partly on the fact that a smaller number of pro-government fighters had left the Shi'ite villages than was agreed.Earlier on Saturday, at the transit point where the buses from al-Foua and Kefraya were waiting, one resident said he was not yet sure where he would live. The dead were said to include evacuees and rebel soldiers guarding the bus.

Ahrar al-Sham group is the main negotiator with the government and its allies of the widely criticized evacuation deal that transferred thousands of government and opposition supporters from four besieged areas. The buses headed to the Jebrin area for a temporary housing center equipped with food and medical supplies, SANA said.

More than 400,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced since the Syrian conflict erupted with protests against Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad in March 2011. The state TV channel said the auto was carrying food aid but a rebel spokesman said the vehicle had been parked in the area and abandoned.

SDF fighters are within a few hundred metres (yards) of Tabqa and engaged in heavy fighting as IS counter-attacked, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

"The people are restless and the situation is disastrous", said Mr Afandar. After the blast, evacuees from opposition areas pleaded for protection fearing revenge attacks.

A resident of Zabadani, another rebel-held town to be evacuated, Amer Burhan says no evacuation has taken place from there.

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