Two explosions have struck a predominantly Kurdish town in northern Syria, killing at least 50 people and wounding dozens.
Syrian state TV said a truck loaded with explosives blew up on the western edge of the town of Qamishli, near the Turkish border, on Wednesday. Minutes later, a motorcycle also packed with explosives blew up in the same area.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the explosion targeted a centre of the local Kurdish police and a nearby government building.
Amid the wreckage, people searched for survivors even as fire still burned around them.
“Oh my son, what did they do to you?,” a grieving mother said at the scene. “They burned you, and they burned the country.”
Those wounded were rushed to hospitals where doctors raced to save their lives.
“I saw a terrible thing,” a wounded young man said. “I was next to the security headquarters when the explosion happened.”
|A man walks at a damaged site after two bomb blasts claimed by ISIL hit Qamishli [Rodi Said/Reuters]|
ISIL has carried out several bombings in Kurdish areas in Syria in the past.
The predominantly Kurdish US-backed Syria Democratic Forces have been the main force fighting ISIL in northern Syria and have captured wide areas from the hardline fighters.
“This was a large attack,” said Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Gaziantep in Turkey, which is close to the Syrian border. “The death toll could significantly rise throughout the day.”
The latest attack comes amid intense fighting in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, where more than 50 people have been killed in recent days.
As the war drags on towards its sixth year, there is a renewed international push to restart the stalled Syria political talks next month.
Speaking in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday, following a closed-door meeting with US and Russian officials, Staffan de Mistura, UN special envoy to Syria, said Washington and Moscow had been discussing ways to work towards the reintroduction of a ceasefire.
De Mistura said that a third round of intra-Syrian peace talks is set for August.
“In the context of the bilateral meeting today, it was also agreed that we, the UN – the facilitator, the mediator – should continue preparing proposals for addressing difficult issues that are related to the [talks],” he said.
The Syrian Observatory estimates that more than 280,000 people have been killed throughout the five years of bloodshed. Efforts to negotiate a lasting ceasefire have collapsed time and again.
More than 4.8 million Syrians have become refugees displaced from their homeland, while more than 6.5 million people are internally displaced within the country’s borders.