Car bomb attack in Syrian rebel-held city claims lives

The blast at a bustling market in the city of Azaz, near the Turkish border, kills at least 14 people.

    Shoppers buying clothes and gifts before the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday were among those killed, witnesses say [Saher el Hacci/Anadolu]
    Shoppers buying clothes and gifts before the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday were among those killed, witnesses say [Saher el Hacci/Anadolu]

    More than a dozen people were killed in a car bomb in a city held by Turkish-backed rebels in northern Syria, a war monitor and Turkish state media said.

    The incident took place at a bustling market in the city of Azaz, near the Turkish border, killing 14 people, according to anonymous sources talking to Turkey's Anadolu Agency. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, Anadolu added.

    Four children were among those killed in the explosion, said war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reported the death toll as 19. 

    The attack also wounded more than 20 people, according to the UK-based monitor. 

    "Many people were leaving evening prayers when the explosion happened," Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman told the AFP news agency.

    Shoppers buying clothes and gifts before the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday were among those killed, Jihad Berro, a coroner at a local hospital, told AFP. He said the medical facility was crammed with victims and their relatives. 

    'The damage is severe'

    An AFP photographer saw a large crowd gathering at the scene of the attack, charred vehicles dotting the side of the road. Rescue workers searched through mounds of rubble, looking for bodies, he said. 

    Resident Abu Youssef said the explosion torched the neighbourhood.

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    "The damage is severe: at least six stores were burned, the storefronts of dozens of other stores were blown out," he told AFP. 

    A similar explosion on Saturday reportedly killed 10 people and wounded 20 in the northern city of Raqqa.

    Turkey launched two operations in northern Syria since 2016, clearing the areas of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL and ISIS) and Kurdish fighters.

    Ankara keeps Turkish troops and intelligence forces around parts of these areas, and still backs Syrian rebels serving as police officers.

    SOURCE: News agencies