Bomber lured children to their deaths with food
126 killed in Syria bus blast as death toll expected to rise
The death toll from a bomb attack on a crowded bus convoy outside Aleppo has reached at least 126 in the deadliest such incident in Syria in almost a year, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said yesterday.
Syrian rescue workers of the Civil Defence said that they had taken away at least 100 bodies from the site of Saturday's blast, which hit buses carrying Shi'ite residents as they waited to cross from rebel into government territory in an evacuation deal between the warring sides.
The British-based Observatory said the number was expected to rise. Those killed were mostly residents of the villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province, but included rebel fighters guarding the convoy, the Observatory said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which pro-Damascus media said was carried out by a suicide car bomber.
Syria's main armed opposition condemned the bombing, with groups fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army describing it as a "treacherous terrorist attack".
Pope Francis, in an Easter message, also condemned the attack, describing it as "ignoble", and asking God to bring healing and comfort to what he called the "beloved and martyred Syria".
A wounded girl, who said she lost her siblings in the blast, told Al-Manar TV from her hospital bed that children who had been deprived of food for years in the two villages were approached by a man in the car who told them to come and eat potato chips. She said once many had gathered, there was an explosion that tore some of the children to pieces.
After the blast, some 60 buses carrying 2,200 people, including 400 opposition fighters, entered areas held by rebels in the northern province of Aleppo, the Observatory's Rami Abdurrahman said. More than 50 buses and 20 ambulances carrying 5,000 Foua and Kfarya residents entered the government-held city of Aleppo, Syrian state TV said, with some of them later reaching a shelter in the village of Jibreen to the south.
UN relief coordinator Stephen O'Brien said he was "horrified" by the bombing, and that while the UN was not involved in the transfer it was ready to "scale up our support to evacuees." He called on all parties to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, and to "facilitate safe and unimpeded access for the UN and its partners to bring life-saving help to those in need."
Residents of Madaya and Zabadani, formerly summer resorts, joined the 2011 uprising against President Bashar Assad. Both came under government siege in the ensuing civil war. Residents of Foua and Kfraya, besieged by the rebels, have lived under a steady hail of rockets and mortars for years, but were supplied with food and medicine through military airdrops.
In eastern Syria, an airstrike by the US-led coalition on the village of Sukkarieh near the border with Iraq killed eight civilians who had earlier fled violence in the northern province of Aleppo, it was reported.