Sunday, 20 August, 2017

Syrian TV says dozens killed in blast near evacuation buses

Saul Franklin | 17 April, 2017, 05:41

Rescuers say at least 100 people were killed from opposition and government supporters. A war monitor puts the death toll at 24 in the area controlled by opposition fighters.

A bomb blast hit a bus convoy waiting to cross into government-held Aleppo in Syria on Saturday, killing and wounding dozens of people evacuated from two Shi'ite villages the day before in a deal between warring sides.The agreement had stalled, leaving thousands of people from both government-besieged and rebel-besieged areas stranded at two transit points on the city's outskirts, before the explosion occurred.Pro-Damascus media outlets said a suicide attacker detonated a auto bomb and killed at least 22 people. A Facebook page belonging to the pro-government Foua and Kfraya villages said all those in three buses were killed or are still missing while a rebel official said at least 30 opposition fighters who were guarding the evacuees were killed in the blast.

Complex transfer is part of a deal that will see more than 10,000 people evacuated and hundreds of prisoners exchanged.

The convoy was carrying residents and pro-government fighters from the rebel-besieged Shi'ite villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in nearby Idlib province.

Pro-government media outlets and pro-opposition activists corroborated the event. According to the deal, more than 2,000 residents, activists and gunmen from areas besieged by government forces were also evacuated.

A Lebanese TV channel close to the Syrian government showed footage of new buses arriving at an evacuation point near the site of the explosion.

The blast was reportedly caused by a suicide attacker detonating a vehicle bomb.

Residents from the two villages evacuated Friday, along with more than 2,000 from Madaya, an opposition-held town outside of Damascus besieged by government forces.

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The busses carrying almost 5,000 pro-government evacuees have been stuck in an area on the edge of Aleppo city, as a much criticised population transfer deal stalls. He accused the government or extremist rebel groups of orchestrating the attack to discredit the opposition.

Thousands of Syrians have been stuck in and around Aleppo on Saturday due to halt of a deal to evacuate people because rebels had not yet been granted safe passage out. But as the government and militants disagreed over the number of gunmen to be evacuated, the busses were left stuck at two separate parts, but adjacent parts of the city.

It said the explosion took place at Rashidin, west of second city Aleppo, where buses were waiting to transport thousands of people who left Fuaa and Kafraya a day earlier.

The blast hit al-Rashideen district on the western outskirts of Aleppo, located some 355 kilometers north of the capital, Damascus, as buses were stopping at a checkpoint on Saturday afternoon.

The exact reasons for the delay in completing the evacuation deal were also unclear.

The attack took place as thousands of evacuees from the besieged government-held towns of Fuaa and Kafraya waited to continue their journey to regime-controlled Aleppo, the coastal province of Latakia, or Damascus.

The deal to evacuate the towns was the latest in a string of such agreements, touted by the rebels as the best way to end the fighting.

Afandar said people were not allowed to leave the buses for a while before they were let out.

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