A car bomb claimed by ISIS detonated in a rebel held Syrian village on Friday, killing more than fifty people, 30 of whom were civilians. The Aleppo Media Center and the UK-based Syrian Observatory both report that the death toll could exceed 60, but their accounts have yet to be confirmed.
According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, at least 100 more were injured, with dozens being rushed to hospitals across the Turkish border for treatment in the town of Kilis.
The village of Sousian was rocked by an explosion only one day after the Islamic State was driven out of its last stronghold in the region. The car bomb struck a vehicle checkpoint manned by military rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
“It was done on a checkpoint but there were a lot of families there gathered and waiting to get back to al-Bab. Therefore, we have many civilian casualties,” a fighter with the Sultan Murad Brigade near al-Bab, said.
The FSA, backed by the support of Turkey’s military, had all but driven the jihadists out of al-Bab by Thursday after weeks of moderate to heavy fighting. On Friday, Turkey announced that the rebels had taken full control of the region and that efforts to begin removing the mines and other explosives left behind by ISIS was already underway.
“It is very dangerous. Our search and clear operation is still under way,” One rebel soldier tasked with mine removal told Reuters.
At least one more explosion was reported in the vicinity of the first on Friday, but it remains unclear whether that was a leftover mine or if the explosion was a controlled detonation. Casualties have been reported but unconfirmed.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the first explosion via social media, only hours after acknowledging on the same platforms that they had lost their foothold in the al-Bab.
While Syria’s primarily conflict is domestic, with rebels supported by nations like Turkey and the United States fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s military, backed by the likes of Russia, Iran, and other Shi’ite militias. Fighting between these groups drew headlines and international attention in Aleppo in recent months, as intense hostilities between the government and rebels led to a series of shaky cease-fires and ultimately the government retaking the city.
Accusations have been levied at the Syrian government for committing war crimes against its own people during operations against the rebels, but in recent months, fighting between the groups has waned, thanks in large part to a peace negotiated without the inclusion of the United States or other NATO nations other than Turkey, who worked hand in hand with Russia to broker the deal. Unfortunately, this tenuous halt to the fighting did not bring peace to the region, however, as combatants from all groups have had to turn their sights to ISIS.
Image courtesy of Reuters