BEIRUT: At least 40 people, including three children, were killed Monday when a car bomb exploded in the town of Darkush in northwestern Syria, near the Turkish border, an NGO said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which had earlier reported a toll of 20, said the number of casualties was expected to rise due to the large number of people who suffered serious injuries.
“The toll has risen to 40 dead, including three children and a woman, as a result of a car bomb blast,” said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on activists across the country for its reports.
Activists from the Syrian Revolution General Commission network said the blast took place in the market area of Darkush, which is under rebel control. The Observatory confirmed the report.
A video posted online by activists showed the aftermath of the blast, with at least one car ablaze and the ground around it covered with smoking embers. A second video showed residents carrying bodies on makeshift stretchers and extensive damage to buildings around the blast site.
Darkush, which lies on the Orontes river, is just a few km from the border with Turkey.
The Syrian opposition National Coalition condemned the “terrorist bombing” in a statement, noting that it came a day before the beginning of Eid Al-Adha.
“The Coalition points the finger at the regime of (Syrian President) Bashar Assad, which is trying to create confusion and chaos and provoke tensions in the ranks of the rebels, as well as take revenge against civilians for defeats of the army,” the Coalition said.
Meanwhile, four of seven aid workers abducted in Syria have been freed, the Red Cross said on Monday, but there was no word on the fate of the other three whose kidnapping highlights the risk to continuing humanitarian work in a country fragmented by war.
Robert Mardini, head of ICRC operations for the Near and Middle East, said in a tweet the four were “safe and sound” after their abduction on Sunday.
ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson said they had been released in the Idlib region, a near-lawless area in northeast Syria where hundreds of militia operate, but did not elaborate on the circumstances.
The ICRC was awaiting information on the remaining three, he said. The six Red Cross workers and local Red Crescent volunteer were abducted by unidentified gunmen as they were returning to Damascus after a four-day mission to deliver medical supplies. “Of course this type of incident is terrible because it is disruptive and puts in jeopardy our operations in Syria,” Mardini told Reuters in Geneva hours before the partial release.
The growing risk of kidnappings means that their foreign staff have reduced their presence in Syria.