At least 10 civilians have been killed and 30 others injured in a car bombing in Idlib, an opposition-held city in northwestern Syria, according to a monitoring group.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the bombing targeted a market in the town of Dana, on the outskirts of Idlib, on Saturday.
So far, there has been no claim of responsibility. However, a local opposition source told DPA that “sleeper cells” linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group were behind the bombing.
Idlib is controlled by armed groups, including al-Qaeda-linked fighters, who are at odds with both the Syrian government and ISIL, also known as ISIS.
On Saturday, the Syrian government said it released 672 prisoners, including political detainees, in advance of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr that starts on Sunday.
The inmates, mostly released from a prison in Damascus, included 91 women, Hesham al-Shaar, Syria’s justice minister, was quoted by state news agency SANA as saying.
He did not give details on their cases.
The mass release was aimed at enhancing “national reconciliation” in the country, Shaar said.
“It also aims at giving another chance to those who were [previously] misled so that they can lead a normal life again,” he said, implicitly referring to those detained for backing the uprising against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In recent months, Assad’s forces, backed by Russian air power, have gained ground in Syria from opposition fighters and armed groups.
Thousands of people have been detained by the government since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, according to rights groups.
On Saturday, a civil council expected to rule Raqqa – an embattled stronghold of ISIL – once the armed group is dislodged from the city pardoned 83 low-ranking ISIL members, a goodwill gesture designed to promote stability.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have gained significant ground in the battle for Raqqa, the operational base for ISIL over the past three years and a symbol of its self-proclaimed caliphate.
Senior SDF figures predict Raqqa could fall within months. That would be a severe blow to ISIL, which has plotted shooting and bomb attacks around the world from Raqqa, a city of about 300,000 before the fighters seized it.