At least 11 soldiers and two civilians were killed in an attack in northern Syria after a civilian bus was targeted on a highway connecting the cities of Raqqa and Homs, the Syrian defence ministry said.
“At about 6:30 [03:30 GMT] this morning, a civilian bus was subjected to a terrorist attack on the Raqqa-Homs highway in al-Jira area,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday, adding that three other army personnel were wounded.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, reported that ISIL (ISIS) cells had attacked a bus in the Jabal al-Bashari area in al-Raqqah desert, but said it was a military vehicle.
“The death toll is believed to rise as there are some people seriously injured,” SOHR said.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack so far, but ISIL previously controlled the territory before being forced out and has continued brazen attacks since the group’s defeat on the battlefield three years ago.
The city of Raqqa was the capital of the armed group’s self-proclaimed “caliphate”.
Syrian authorities regularly blame such attacks on the armed group.
Syria’s 11-year-old conflict has carved the country into various zones of control, with government troops and allied fighters controlling most territory. ISIL sleeper cells have been active in eastern, northern and central Syria.
A patch of the northwestern territory is held by Turkish-backed opposition forces and more hardline groups, while US-backed Kurdish-led forces hold the northeast.
Similar attacks have occurred before – one of the deadliest was in December 2020, when 28 people were killed in an attack on a bus on the main highway in Syria’s eastern Deir Az Zor province.
With Russian and Iranian support, the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has clawed back much of the territory lost in the early stages of the war, which erupted in 2011 when the government brutally repressed pro-democracy protests.
The war has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and the emergence of ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Analysts have long feared a resurgence of the group, but it has still been unable to significantly expand, and has been largely restricted to attacks by cells.